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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.

 

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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