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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.

Why Failure is Good for your Employees

April 13th, 2018

You’re been coaching your team of employees for a while now, and you’ve recently watched them put together a project for which they’ve pulled out all the stops. They’ve stayed late, they’ve demonstrated teamwork, and they’ve brought all of their hard-earned skills to the table. They’ve done their very best on their respective parts of the project. And they’ve utterly failed.

The disappointment is palpable, and the dark cloud in the office is fanning the flames of blame, mistrust and recrimination. The failure was so epic that some members of the team are rethinking their talent for this work and others are thinking of leaving the company. So as a manager, what should you do? Should you yell at them? Should you tell them they should have tried harder? Or should you view this as a valuable teaching moment? Consider the last option. Here’s why.

They are upset because they care.

Deep disappointment after failure is a strong sign of engagement, which should always be valued and encouraged in the workplace. Remember that, and respect and appreciate that if your team is gloomy, embarrassed, or wracked with self-doubt after the episode, you (and they) are doing something right. If they just shrugged it off, you’d have more cause for concern.

Put the episode in an appropriate context.

If your company is solely driven by profit and sales, let your teams know that this is just business, and growth in business comes at a cost. The more you fail, the more you learn to face failure and move past it. When you don’t fail, you don’t learn and you don’t grow. If, on the other hand, putting things in a context deepens the pain of the loss (for example, if you work in a hospital instead of an office) take a philosophical approach. Get some help from relevant therapist or healthcare management expert if you need to.

Speak privately with those who are experiencing self-doubt.

Give special attention to the employees who believe they lost the day through their own mistakes or skill deficits. These employees, separate from the team, will need a cleared-eyed assessment from you. If they’re mistaken about their abilities, let them know. If they’re correct, help them bolster their areas of weakness with appropriate training, exposure, and advice.

Keep an eye out for toxic behavior.

These difficult moments present opportunities for bullies, back stabbers, blame-placers and credit stealers. When you see subtle signs from bad actors (those who push others under the bus or deny their own share of responsibility) don’t fall for it. Give credit where it is rightfully due.

For more on how to pick up the pieces after a failure and make the most of the episode from a management perspective, contact the staffing and coaching experts at Merritt Staffing.

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.

“Tell Me About Yourself”: What Does this Actually Mean?

December 28th, 2015

Some interviewers like to divide and parse the session into a tight series of highly specific, highly scripted questions with obvious right and wrong answers. But don’t be surprised if you walk into the office on the day of your interview and encounter the exact opposite: aAn interviewer who asks very few questions that are open ended and loosely scripted. In other words, an interviewer who simply sits back and allows you—the candidate—to direct the session.

If and when this happens, your interviewer may ask any of the following questions. All of these are designed to let you take the floor and speak in a general way about whatever comes to mind:

“What’s your story?”

“Why don’t you fill me in on your background?”

“Tell me about yourself.”

If you’re faced with any of these unstructured prompts, here are a few moves to keep in mind as you formulate your response.

There’s only one wrong answer.

The only wrong answer to this question is no answer at all. Whatever you do, don’t sit there staring blankly at your interviewer like a deer in the headlights, and don’t squirm in your chair or declare that you “don’t like talking about yourself.”. It’s also unwise to turn the question back on your interview by demanding specifics (as in: “What would you like to know?”) Instead, have courage and trust yourself. Just speak from the heart.

Have a statement in mind beforehand.

Since you know that you may be pushed into the spotlight with no specific instructions, be ready. Prepare an “elevator pitch” that can be delivered in a time frame between 30 seconds and two full minutes. Use your pitch to list your most important credentials and make an argument that explains why you should be hired for this job instead of someone else. Practice in the mirror—or on a friend—at least once or twice before your session.

Start at the beginning.

If you’d rather skip the prepared pitch and speak off the cuff, that’s fine. But know where you plan to start. You can begin by explaining the general arc of your career, starting with the moment you first developed a passion for this type of work. You can also start by describing how you heard about this company and this open position, and why you decided to apply. As a third option, you can describe your last position and explain why you’re searching for something new.

Tell your story.

No matter how you decide to dive in, try to answer the question by telling a story. When we provide information in the form of a narrative, people tend to show more interest and retain the details for the longer period of time.

For more on how to control the tone and outcome of your interview session, contact the job search experts at Merritt Staffing.

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.

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.

Onboarding: Are You Providing the Necessary Training?

August 8th, 2014

Surveys of class-of-2014 and 2015 graduates show a clear pattern: Young college students feel adequately prepared for the workplace. About 80 percent of them expect to step in the door and hit the ground running, and they expect their employers to offer the job specific training they’ll need in order to thrive in a given workplace.

But surveys of working graduates who completed their degrees in 2013 and 2012 tell a different story. About 48 percent of these young workers received a surprise when they stepped into the working world. They were tossed into the deep end to sink or swim as well as they could, and the formal training they expected failed to materialize.

Mangers seem equally mystified by the gap between their expectations of younger workers and the actual preparation these workers bring to the job. Managers often describe their new recruits as “prepared for working life in general…but not for the realities of this specific job.”

Develop an In-House Job Training Program

If this situation describes your experience with new-grad hires, you have two options: You can sit still and complain, waiting for the higher education system to “improve” until it finally meets your needs. Or you can start developing an effective, formal, on-the-job training program that can get your younger hires up to speed quickly and help them cross the line from liability to asset.

In order to do this, you’ll need to get ready to invest. Nothing comes for free in this life, as your debt-strapped, hopeful new employees already know. Start conducting audits of each department and entry level position to determine the exact knowledge gaps that are holding you (and your employees) back. Ask your supervisors what they aren’t getting from new grad hires, and ask your employees with two and three years of experience for their input: What would have helped them when they first stepped on board? What information and skills did they need the most?

When you’ve gained a sense of direction and a set of clear training goals, you can set your sites on an in-house program that can meet your needs, using mentor-pairing, shadowing, video training, or coursework. Or you can outsource the process and hire external vendors to provide instructors and coaches.

When you’re ready to implement your program, stay flexible. Jump in immediately to fix what isn’t working or to add course content that new employees and their supervisors will find useful. At all times, stay open to change, and make sure that both parties are getting what they need out of the process. Reach out to the staffing experts at Merritt for guidance and support.

Reference Checks: Don’t Overlook This Crucial Step

July 11th, 2014

No hiring process for a high-responsibility job should be considered complete without a reference check. But this final, crucial stage of the process can take time, and this exercise often provides managers with subjective, open ended data points that are difficult to measure and quantify and even more difficult to compare across a candidate pool. After all, most managers don’t get very much out of bland phrases like: “We never had a single problem with him,” or “She was great. Really great.”

So if you’re staffing a critical position and you don’t have hours to spare in exchange for vague, meaningless feedback, keep these considerations in mind before you abandon the process altogether.

1. One red flag can prevent countless headaches and regrets.

Nine reference checks out of ten may not provide game changing information. But the tenth may be worth more than gold. If your contact says something like “I’m not sure why he submitted my name as a reference”, or “She’s great as long as you don’t expect punctuality (or public speaking skill, or written communication skills, etc)”, then your time will have been well spent.

2. It’s okay to read between the lines.

Sometimes great management decisions come from the gut and can’t be easily quantified. If you hear something in your contact’s voice that you can’t even describe in words, let alone measure, that’s okay. A slight hesitation, a moment of confusion, or a genuine tone of enthusiastic, heartfelt support can shine a legitimate green light on the candidate or allow you to shift focus to another qualified candidate.

3. Word your questions thoughtfully.

Try to add meaning to the process by investing in your wording. Instead of a bland, empty question like “Would you recommend this candidate?” try something more focused, like “Which responsibilities should I hand to this candidate? Which tasks should I hand to someone else?”

4. A neutral answer (or no answer) speaks volumes.

If you find a candidate’s references difficult to reach, or in a hurry to end the conversation, take this into account. You’ll also want to scrutinize answers that aren’t answers at all, like “I can’t really say very much about him”, “I didn’t work with her on a daily basis”, or “She was a nice person…I can’t tell you anything about her technical skills, but she was pleasant enough.”

For more information on how to keep your reference checks valuable and efficient, reach out to the staffing experts at Merritt.

 

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