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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.

Hiring for Motivation

September 9th, 2016

As you sift through your applicant pool and start scheduling interviews, you’ll be searching for candidates who seem genuinely excited to take this specific job and work for your specific company. Motivation is an important selling point, and you’ll definitely want a candidate who leans forward, speaks with enthusiasm, and seems pleased and honored to have your attention.

Unfortunately, “motivation” is also a vague concept that’s difficult to define, and it’s easy for some candidates to put on a mask and act motivated, even if they really aren’t interested in the company and they intend to abandon the job as soon as another opportunity comes along. So how can you tell if your excited candidate is truly interested in contributing to your enterprise, and not simply planning to use this job as a short term stepping stone? Keep these tips in mind.

Directly address issues of over-qualification.

If your candidate seems excited about the job, but her impressive resume and track record suggest that she could be aiming much higher, ask why. Ask her to explain why this specific job sparks her interest. If she provides clear detail and she seems to have given the issue some serious thought, that’s a good sign. Look closer if she answers in generalities like, “Well, I just love to succeed!”

Address signs of coasting.

Younger candidates are often handed a few breaks early in their careers. This is not uncommon, since many companies hire under-qualified entry-level candidates at a discount, hoping to train them in-house. Keep an eye out for candidates with a history of failing upward, chair-warming, or completing only the bare minimum during their past three or four positions. It’s an easy thing to get away with, for a while. But the free ride should stop with you.

Ask tough questions about future plans.

When you ask your candidate about his career goals during the next two, three, and five years, he should have a
clear and thoughtful response. His answer should touch on specific branches and subspecialties of your industry, and should indicate clear interest in at least one concrete aspect of this field.

Keep an eye on non-verbal cues.

Which conversation topics cause your candidate to light up, lean forward, gesture while talking, and speak with volume and animation? Does the position at hand involve the kinds of tasks and learning opportunities that light this fire in your candidate? If so, then she’s a great match for the job.

For more on how to spot genuine alignment and strong motivation in your candidates, reach out to the Hartford staffing team at Merritt.

Are you Losing Candidates to your Competition?

April 24th, 2015

If you lose one or two of your top candidates every now and then to better offers, that’s nothing to worry about. This happens to all employers every once in a while, and since candidates are free to walk away at any time (as long as they haven’t signed a contract), there’s not much you can do to prevent the occasional top choice from slipping away.

But if this disappointment is taking place on a regular basis, there are a few things you can do to step up your offer and speed up your hiring process. Show respect and present your company’s best side and you’ll grab the attention of top contenders. Start with these moves.

Show Interest from the Beginning

If a candidate shows enough respect for your company to apply here, then she deserves an equal level of warmth and interest on your part. Never leave a candidate waiting by the phone once you’ve opened a dialogue. And course, never leave candidates waiting in the reception area for more than ten minutes after the scheduled start time of an interview. Welcome them with a smile and a firm handshake, show interest in their backgrounds, and never cross examine them or put them on the defensive during the selection process. Would you work for a company (or hire a candidate) who treated you this way? Probably not.

Once you Make Your Decision, Act Quickly

When you’ve settled on your top contender, move fast. Don’t expect her to put her job search on hold while you slowly process her paperwork and wait for key HR personnel to return from long vacations. Make sure she knows that she’s the one for you by presenting her with a clear verbal offer, and if the written offer will take two days or two weeks to process, let her know the timeline and stick with it.

Handle Second Choices Carefully

Be perfectly honest with your runner up candidates about where they stand. Treat them with the same respect you would appreciate if you were in their positions. Don’t lead them to believe they’re at the top of the list, but tell them they’re still in the running until the day they aren’t anymore. Contact them on that day and deliver a clear, positive, and decisive message. Thank them genuinely for their interest in the company.

Keep the Process Short

Try not to conduct more than then three rounds of interviews total, including phone screenings. Dragging candidates back into the office multiple times will only alienate the ones who are strong enough to have other options. If you subject your applicants to ten rounds, you’ll lose the best contenders at round three, and by round ten, only the desperate will still be showing up. Respect your candidates and they’ll respect you.

For more on how to attract the most talented applicants in the marketplace, reach out to the staffing 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.

The Cost of a Hiring Mistake

November 28th, 2014

Too many hiring managers make the same common and often expensive mistake: They confuse a low- responsibility position with a low stakes hiring decision. For example, they invest in careful reviews, extensive vetting, cold sweats and lost sleep while looking for a mid-level manager with eight direct reports. But they don’t put the same effort into an entry level role or a stock room position. Then they make an avoidable hiring mistake and need to start the process over…at a cost that may equal or exceed the annual salary for the position. Before you follow in the footsteps of these unfortunate managers, keep a few considerations in mind

Create a budget.

How much will your hiring process actually cost? If you don’t know, it’s time to find an answer. Include both hard numbers and intangible estimates in your equation. For example, factor in the cost of your hiring manager’s time and the cost of your contract with a staffing company, but make sure you also include the amount you stand to lose each day as long as the position remains empty

Listen, don’t just talk.

Don’t assume that you hold all the cards during the selection process, and don’t patronize your candidates or assume they’ll be eager to jump through hoops to please you. Instead, focus on what you have to offer, not just what you want. Make sure your candidate can tolerate the commute, make sure you can provide what she’s looking for in terms of advancement, and encourage her to talk about her long term plans so you can see how well your own plans measure up. If you don’t listen, and you candidate leaves the company five months after her start date for predictable reasons, you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself.

Focus on cultural adaptability.

You understand the ins and outs of your own workplace culture (or at least you should). But your candidate can’t be expected to speak about this. She has no experience with this workplace and has no way to assess the likelihood of a match, so you’ll need to take full responsibility for this task. Don’t ask your candidate “Will you fit in here?” Instead, ask her about her preferred work style, her personality, her approach to leadership, and her cultural expectations. Then make your own decision about how well she’ll get along with your current teams. If she isn’t happy, you won’t be happy.

For more on how to find a candidate that can maximize your returns on an expensive hiring investment, contact the experienced staffing professionals at Merritt.

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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