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Support Innovation and New Ideas: Don’t Kill Them!

November 30th, 2012

When it comes to business trends and buzz-speak, “creativity” is one of the most discussed and least understood words in the modern world. It’s followed at a short distance by “innovation”. While self-described business experts love using these words and claiming to support a culture of spontaneity and ingenuity, the same experts tend to end their speeches by returning to their cubicled workscapes and actively smothering the creativity out of everything around them. There’s a reason for this; most business decision makers depend on the status quo for their security and success, and new ideas—brilliant, impractical, nascent, polished or raw– always represent a threat to the status quo.

So if you’re responsible for supporting business growth and encouraging a thriving culture of ideas, how can you balance that desire with the perfectly natural urge to curtail change and mitigate risk? How can you actually—not just superficially– support creativity and bring out the spark of unconventional genius in each of your employees? More to the point, how can you make sure aren’t crushing that spark every time it shows a sign of life?

Diversity is Powerful, and so is its Absence

Start by looking around your workplace. You should see people from every age group, and these people should represent both genders, multiple ethnicities, and every imaginable size, shape and back story. You may not be leading the United Nations, but the more your employees vary in background, the more they’ll learn from each other, which means the smarter they’ll be, and the stronger your company will become. If you see too much similarity, make some targeted changes to your staffing strategy.

Don’t Rush Things

There’s no faster way to kill new ideas than by forcing them. Be careful how you ration resources, especially time. Brilliant and risky ideas sometimes result from intense deadline pressure….but they usually don’t. Instead, unrealistic deadlines tend to produce assembly line ideas that look just like all the previous ones.

Regulate Product if you Want, But Not Process

Be flexible and allow employees to work in their own way. Just because you read a management article that says employees work best in teams, or in the morning, or when encouraged to compete, doesn’t mean it’s true. Some processes work well from some employees and not for others.

Most Important: Don’t Withhold Support

The best way to keep an employee from suggesting an idea (or even considering the idea in the first place) is to reflexively reject, deny, or ignore unsolicited suggestions. Especially in a public setting. The second best method involves taking the idea and putting it into action without providing appropriate credit or compensation. Give employees incentive to think outside the box, and when they do it, thank them and give them support, whether the idea has merit or not.

Reach out to the Connecticut staffing and business management experts at Merritt for more ways to encourage creativity in your workplace. We can help you remove obstacles to innovation and bring out the best in your team.

Shine a Spotlight on Your Job Posting

July 27th, 2012

According to survey data, about 20 percent of successful new hires, or one in five, report that they decided to make contact after finding the job posting through an online listing. So even while experts push the benefits of real world networking, the job board venue remains very popular among talented applicants.

What does this mean for recruiters and hiring managers? First, it means job boards offer a great way to target the applicants you’re looking for. But it also means the competition in this venue is tight, and you’ll need to find ways to draw attention to your posting if you want to attract a broad pool of qualified candidates. What makes a candidate pause on your listing and click for more information? And as she reviews that information, what aspects of the posting encourage her to find out more about your company and ultimately decide to apply?

Highly Effective Job Postings: Tips

1. Make sure your posting is searchable. The job title you choose should be clear and specific, since this is the phrase your candidates will type into the search bar. Use terms like “Technical Document Editor” or “Bedding Sales Manager.” Avoid job titles and post headings like “Talented Change Driver”, or “Brilliant Superstar Needed.”

2. List the job requirements and qualifications as short, bulleted phrases. Be clear and specific as you do this. After you’ve generated a list, remove all meaningless entries suggesting the candidate will be required to “maintain regular work hours”, or “support the company as needed.”

3. Let the job seeker know what’s in it for her. If possible, simply state the salary you intend to offer, or at least provide a range. Mention some of the perks your company offers and list any awards or public mentions you’ve received that showcase your office as a positive place to work.

4. Focus on tone, graphics, and visual layout. Make sure the text of the post sounds fluid and compelling (no clunky prose or poor grammar), and include embedded links and video clips if possible. Ideally, employers should maintain an individual blog for every open position, and the job posting should provide a link directly to the blog. On the blog site, feel free to offer testimonials, visual graphics, company information, photographs, and video interviews with the applicant’s potential boss.

5. Think like a job seeker. Put yourself in the position of your ideal candidate. If you stumbled upon this posting, would you be interested in learning more? Would you feel excited about the company and inspired to apply? Or would you be bored, confused, and ready to move on to the next entry?

For more guidance on creating a knock-out job posting, contact your local Connecticut recruitment agency at Merritt Staffing. We can help you cast a wide net and bring in the talented applicants you need.

Hiring Blacklists: Do They Exist?

July 20th, 2012

As they reach out to employers, polish their resumes, and prepare to shine during interviews, job seekers often wonder about the consequences of falling short. How badly can an interview really go? What can happen under the most damaging or humiliating circumstances, in which, for example, a candidate is caught faking a reference or lying on a resume? Job seekers may be passed over for a specific position, but can they actually be blacklisted or formally closed out of future opportunities with that company? Or worse still, can a bad candidacy set an applicant up for automatic rejection with other companies throughout the industry?

Are Hiring Blacklists a Real Thing?

Not really. (Feel free to sigh with relief.) A formal or informal company-wide do-not-hire list can be used to help HR managers warn each other about potential mismatches and scam artist applicants, but these lists are rare, and their value to hiring managers is limited when measured against the way they can expose a company to potential discrimination lawsuits. HR managers appreciate a heads-up from elsewhere in the company if this warning protects them from an applicant who, for example, has submitted multiple resumes for multiple positions, each resume presenting conflicting information. But strange and egregious behaviors like this are uncommon, and HR managers don’t live their lives in fear of these kinds of events.

Most of the time, a thorough reference and background check can prevent a company from falling for an out-and-out scammer. And simply being surpassed by another candidate during the application process won’t earn you a company’s disgust or disrespect. Hiring managers typically respect all applicants who show an interest in their organization. Then they choose the one they like and move on. Few serious, professional companies have time for vindictiveness or blacklists unless they’re given very good reasons.

Blacklists Aside, What about Informal Badmouthing?

Here’s another scenario job seekers often fear: They fumble an interview, and the next day the interviewer has lunch with a corresponding interviewer from another company in the same field. The two hiring mangers laugh together about how awful the interview was, and now the applicant has no chance of being hired when she submits her resume to Company B.  (Or Company C, D, and E if all four managers are friends who enjoy getting together to share sandwiches and laugh at job applicants.)

Again, feel free to sigh with relief, because this doesn’t happen. Professional, legitimate companies respect all of their applicants unless they’re given an extreme reason not to. As long as you don’t lie on your resume, abuse your interviewer, or forget to wear pants on the day your interview is scheduled, most interviewers will appreciate the time and interest you show in their companies, even if they ultimately reject you. And chances are, if you interview later with Company B and Interviewer A catches wind of this, she’ll wish you well and hope that you and your future employer form a productive and positive relationship.

Have questions about the job search process? Reach out to your local Connecticut employment staffing service at Merritt Staffing. We’re here to help!


Women, Men, Staffing Policies, and Workplace Motivators

July 13th, 2012

Do men and women respond differently to different workplace motivators? What about gender-slanted wording in job postings? Are the members of one gender more likely to appreciate higher compensation or better training opportunities than the other? We frequently hear questions like these from hiring managers trying to make their workplaces more productive and conflict-free. These managers have often been deluged with confusing advice from well-meaning generals on both sides of the gender wars.

So at the risk of disappointing those who enjoy fanning the flames of gender conflict…No. In fact, recent studies (and a dose of common sense) suggest that men and women both want essentially the same things from their employers. They both value a safe and respectful workplace. They both value fair compensation, they both value opportunities for advancement, and they both value health and retirement benefits. Both men and women prefer employers who respect work-life balance and demonstrate flexibility regarding working hours and on-site task completion.

When it comes to job postings, both men and women are interested in clear information about responsibilities, requirements, benefits, and perks. If your company sounds like a financially stable and fun place to work, applicants of both genders will apply. If your company sounds sketchy and your job postings are sloppy and vague, both women and men will steer clear.

Men and Women Want the Same Things: Staffing Experts Express Zero Shock

Does this surprise us? No. But we’ve been in the employment business for a long time. Some younger business owners and start-up hiring mangers express confusion when they find out that work-life balance, for example, matters just as much to men as it does it women. But part of creating a fair, collaborative, and thriving team environment means making a concerted effort to remove gender (and ethnic and religious) bias from our approach to every task involving hiring and human capital management. Rooting out preconceived notions takes work, and it requires no small amount of self-reflection.

But the rewards may be significant. If your employees—both men and women, both current and potential—have confidence in your cool-headed and even-handed policies, you’ll earn their trust. And if they trust in your leadership, they’ll be more inclined to trust each other and demonstrate greater commitment to your company. The bottom line? Higher productivity, lower turnover, a stronger company reputation, and a growing foothold in your industry. Before approaching men and women with pre-conceived assumptions, stop and remember this cardinal rule: The best way to gain respect is to show respect. This applies regardless of gender.

Looking for more ways to increase productivity and dedication in your workplace? Contact a staffing agency in CT at Merritt and find out what we can do for you.

Your Job Search, Your Computer Screen, and Social Media

July 6th, 2012

You’re on the job market and you don’t want to stay here long. So you’re using every tool at your disposal to find your way back into the workforce as quickly as possible. You’re making appointments with each of your contacts to ask for advice, you’re scanning job boards daily, and you’re following up on every conversation that might lead you to suitable employment. You’ve contacted your old bosses, your favorite professors, and (if you’re a new graduate), your friend’s parents. And you’re doing whatever you can to make the most of your internet resources, including social media. But before you rely too much on social media tools to advance your career, stop and think.

Social media can provide a great way to round out your job search, and it can definitely help you reach out to contacts you haven’t heard from in a while. But can Facebook and Twitter really provide a magic formula for instant job success?

Social Media and Your Job Search

Every day, we hear from job seekers (often new graduates and young people) who wonder why Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn aren’t launching their careers into the stratosphere. “I posted a profile,” they tell us, “but it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Our answer: Posting a social media profile probably won’t hurt your chances of success. But when it comes to the job search process, passivity, hope, and excessive time spent in front of a screen won’t get you where you need to be. Instead, post a profile and get quickly back into the real world. Pick up the phone and actively reach out to anyone you know who might be able to help you. Arrange “informational interviews”, or short meetings in which you sit down with your contacts and find out what they would do and who they would call if they were in your shoes.

In the meantime, use the hours between your meetings to search for open positions that match your qualifications and skills. When you find these positions, take decisive action. Research the companies behind these postings, tailor your cover letter directly to specific contacts at these firms, and polish your resume until it shines.

Each day when you wake up, develop a plan of attack that’s at least 80 percent action and no more than 20 percent social media and hopeful waiting. Put your shyness aside, be bold, go forth, and get away from your screen. Social media has its place, but if you make Facebook the cornerstone of your job search process, you may be engaged in the process for a very long time.

For specific tips and personal guidance, contact your local recruiting company in Fairfield County  at Merritt Staffing. We have the experience and resources you need to stand up to the challenges of your job search.

Employers: Should You Value Attitude Over Job Skills?

June 29th, 2012

You have an open position that you need to fill by the end of the week, and you’ve narrowed your pool of candidates down to two. As you agonize between the final contenders, you consider their skill sets as well as their personalities.

The first candidate is cheerful, funny, a bit of a clown, and has pleasant tendency toward self-deprecation. She’s clearly a team player and an extrovert, and she’s a quick learner. The other candidate is also a quick learner. But by contrast, she’s a highly driven perfectionist, a loner, and a fierce competitor. She’s all business, and if you need her to stay late, you know that she’ll burn the midnight oil as long as you ask.

Did I mention that your office is an easygoing and collaborative environment? Your employees are all young parents, and they cheerfully share the workload when family priorities arise. They leave at the stroke of five when they can, they enjoy team projects, and their greatest accomplishments have risen out of a sense of unity and a fruitful collective chemistry. They’re all very happy here, and your turnover is the lowest in your industry.

But…your easygoing candidate is fluent in only four of the software languages you use here, and your driven loner is fluent in all five.

What should you do?

Attitude Versus Job Skills

According to reliable HR studies and the evidence we see every day among our client firms, the answer is clear. Employers find greater success with their new hires when they prioritize attitude and cultural adaptability over trainable job skills.

All else being equal, candidates who blend well with your existing culture will be happier, more adaptable and ultimately more productive than those who have the skills but aren’t a social fit. In fact, this tends to hold true even when all else isn’t equal. Even candidates with a slight skill deficit should be considered above those who aren’t a cultural match. Especially if the skills are likely to be acquired on the job.

Why is this the case? We aren’t sure. Studies exploring the complex connection between cultural adaptability and job success are underway, and so far haven’t provided many definitive answers. But hiring managers making final round decisions should keep the take-home message in mind. Candidates who enjoy their social environment are better poised to stay, thrive, make strong connections, and demonstrate higher levels of commitment and productivity than those who don’t.

Need help with your agonizing final round hiring decisions? Contact your Connecticut employment staffing service at Merritt Staffing. We’ll use our extensive HR resources to help you fill your open position and move on.

I Was Told I was Overqualified. What Should I Do?

June 22nd, 2012

Here’s a question we frequently hear from job seekers: “I’m a mid-to-senior level candidate with a graduate level education, and more than once I’ve been turned away on the grounds that I’m ‘overqualified’. Can you explain what employers mean when they say this? I’m not applying beneath my level, and in some cases I’ve even been invited to apply and then rejected.”

We’ll break our response down into two parts. First, employers cite overqualification as an elimination criteria for specific reasons, and you should know what these reasons are. Second, you may need to change your approach in order to get around this common obstacle. We’ll show you how.

What Does “Overqualified” Mean?

Employers don’t make hiring decisions based on a simple linear spectrum that runs from “incompetent” to “brilliant.” There are many other complex personal, political, and financial factors that influence a hiring choice, most of which we’ll never be told, especially since employers are reluctant to explain their decisions and expose themselves to legal backlash. Calling you overqualified may just be a diplomatic way of saying you aren’t a match for the culture. Or maybe there’s a bitter football rivalry between the hiring manager’s alma mater and yours. Fair? Maybe not, but at least these decisions don’t result from anything you’re doing wrong.

If you truly are perceived as overqualified, recognize that employers hesitate to accept candidates who might leave as soon as a more appropriate opportunity comes along. Hiring and training are expensive, and a low risk candidate is one who’s willing to stay for a long time. Salary may also a key determinant. Most managers don’t even want to begin salary negotiations with a candidate they’re pretty sure they can’t afford. Why start a conversation with you about what you’ll accept when the next candidate in line is sure to be cheaper and less likely to haggle?

Overqualified: What Can You Do About it?

First, make sure you’re applying for the right jobs. If you’re aiming too low, you’re more likely to be dismissed as restless or expensive. Second, make sure you’re reaching the right people. Some of the gatekeepers you encounter, especially those who are just one rung above you, may find you threatening. Try to make an end run around these people and reach the ear of those at least two steps above your level.

Third, control the conversation. Let hiring mangers know why you’re looking for a job at this level even if they don’t ask. Have faith in your reasons. They’re good reasons, or you wouldn’t have them. Don’t apologize or dumb down your qualifications (never do this), but make sure you anticipate any potential confusion and explain it away before the door closes in your face.

Finally, if you’ve been rejected on these grounds more than once, maybe it’s time for a little soul searching. Consider aiming higher than you currently are, maybe even quite a bit higher. Experiment by sending out a few applications for positions that feel far beyond your reach. What’s the worst that could happen?

For more guidance with your job search process, contact a staffing agency in Fairfield County at Merritt Staffing and find out what we can do for you.

Streamline Your Seasonal Hiring Strategy

June 15th, 2012

The summer is here and as the warm weather arrives, your staffing strategy moves into high gear. Maybe your team undergoes a cyclical shift that corresponds with the academic calendar. Or maybe your business model moves according to seasonal rhythms. Fields like landscaping, outdoor recreation, and summer tourism depend on intense staff fluctuations during the beginning and end of the vacation season. Regardless of the nature of your business, if you’re getting ready for a whirlwind staff turnover and an urgent, chaotic hiring process, try these tips to keep things under control and on track.

Organize your Seasonal Talent Management Strategy: Summer Hiring Tips

1. Lay the Groundwork Beforehand

Will you be staffing your counters with teenagers around the clock starting next Monday? Next year, begin the process in April, or even March. Remind your contacts that you’ll be hiring. Reach into your network and make it known that you’ll be looking for talented employees and reliable, committed help. Do your friends have ambitious teenage children? Are you close to college, trade school, or any other source of committed and soon-to-be-searching employees? If yes, give these potential employees a heads up long before the season begins.

2. Get Help

You don’t have to tackle the entire hiring project on your own. Delegate some of the application sorting to your assistant managers, or reach out to an expert staffing firm (like Merritt) to take some of the rush and risk out of the process.

3. Make Use of Your Impressions

Don’t make assumptions or stereotype your candidates (doing so will cause you to miss out on talented, invaluable help.)  But don’t ignore your impressions. A young applicant with questionable tattoos may be the best thing ever to walk in your door. But if you feel a strong hunch, don’t ignore it. A candidate who shows up ten minutes late for her interview doesn’t need to be given a second chance. Just make your decision and move on.

4. Set the Bar High at the Beginning

Don’t understate the challenges of the job to potential applicants. In fact, if you have no shortage of applicants, overstate them. This will encourage self-selection among your candidate pool and make your job much easier.

5. Put In what you Expect to Get Out

A stich in time saves nine. For every extra hour you spend on application sorting and background checks, you’ll sidestep future problems, avoid headaches, and limit the losses that tend to result from hasty, inefficient hiring. If you’re going to waste a little time on staffing this summer, waste it now. Don’t run into a staffing crisis a month from now that you could have prevented with a five minute reference check.

Contact an employment agency in CT at Merritt Staffing for more help with your seasonal hiring strategy, and have a profitable summer!

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