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Don’t Treat a Phone Interview Casually

August 25th, 2017

If you’re like most job seekers, you prepare well in advance for your face-to-face interviews, dressing to impress, researching the company, and taking extra precautions to put your best foot forward. But you probably don’t take the same approach or invest the same time and thought in a simple phone screening. But you probably should. Give yourself an advantage during the search and take a few extra steps that your competitors are likely to ignore. Here’s how.

Be yourself…but be your BEST self.

Affecting a fake persona during an interview isn’t a good idea, and over the phone this plan is even more likely to backfire. So don’t try to be someone you aren’t. But do bring your friendliest, most engaged, and most organized and purposeful side to the call. Sit up straight, or stand. Speak a bit more slowly and clearly than you’re used to. Smile as you speak— your listener can hear your smile.

Prepare beforehand.

Make sure you’re ready to take the call in a quiet place with no distractions or unpredictable noises in the background. And of course, don’t create these noises yourself. If you think your listener can’t hear you flushing a toilet or eating a snack, think again. The room around you presents a soundscape that your listeners can easily interpret, so don’t reveal what’s around you. When you take the call, do it far away from coffee shops, bathrooms, and dog kennels.

Do some research.

A phone screening doesn’t require the same depth of research that might help during a face-to-face meeting, but do some research all the same. Impress your employers by showing that you’re invested in the job and you’re interested in moving the process forward. A few minutes spent reviewing the company’s website should suffice; don’t miss this easy opportunity to shine.

Ask questions now.

During your initial phone call, you’ll have a chance to ask questions that may feel awkward later in the hiring process. For example, if you suspect that this job will pay far less than you can accept, get this cleared up now. Don’t waste the employer’s time and your own by moving forward toward an offer that you’ll inevitably reject. The same applies to other clear dealbreakers, like a geographic location far outside of your search range.

Prepare your tools.

Check to make sure your phone connection is clear and you have access to whatever conference platforms your employer plans to use during the call. If you plan to take notes, make sure you have your note-taking program or pad and pen handy. While you’re at it, prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask and key points you’d like to make about your background and credentials. Be ready to share these details without being directly asked. If you wait for the perfect prompt, you may miss your moment.

For more on how to make the most of your phone interview and move forward to the offer you’re looking for, turn to the Fairfeld County job search experts at Merritt.

Boosting Your Personal Brand on Paper

January 20th, 2017

Showcase your personal brand during your job search! Let your potential employers know who you are and what you stand for using just a few words, and make sure your message resonates and lingers in their minds long after they’ve moved on to the next applicant in the pool. Here are a few simple branding moves that can help you stand out.

Calm formatting

Your formatting and visual choices can speak volumes about your candidacy. A well-presented resume can tell the world that you have an eye for design, you understand the visual aspects of sales and marketing, you understand and respect your reader, and you have the professionalism and experience to know which moves work and which ones don’t. Start by keeping your text and your lines relaxed on the page. Don’t use tiny font or crowd your statements together. Instead, summarize your statements so they say everything they need to say without taking up too much space.

A dash of color

Some employers print out resumes in black and white in order to pass them around, or they transmit them by fax, in which case your color decisions may not come through. But that’s okay; use color anyway. Keep your color palate limited to two, black and one other (or three at the most). Stay stylish and understated, and choose a color that reflects your personal statement. Keep in mind that reds suggest passion, blues represent a cool head, yellow implies a sunny disposition, green means creativity, orange means friendliness, and purple implies dignity.

Simple themes

Simple themes and statements are easier to remember, so if you had to simplify your entire resume and cover letter into one sentence, what might that sentence be? What about five words? What about one word? You don’t have to do anything specific with that word, necessarily, but you should know what it is. Take that single, simple word and build the rest of your brand around it.

Give yourself a hook.

Your target employers have clearly stated in the job post that the position requires a master’s degree in accounting. They also have a bilingual, multinational client base. This means they’ll hear from hundreds of candidates with a master’s degree. But how many of these candidates will also speak Spanish? If you can offer a valuable skill in addition to and apart from what your employers will find in the rest of the applicant pool, leverage that skill. Give it a prominent place in your profile.

Use strong branding to keep your resume and cover letter at the top of the list and at the forefront of your employer’s attention. For more on how to do this, contact the Connecticut job search experts at Merritt.

Recruiting Top Talent in Today’s Economy

December 23rd, 2016

The challenges recruiters face today are very different than the ones they faced ten years ago. Specifically: In today’s market, talent is available, widespread, and mobile. Most employers are no longer limited by geographic constraints, since employees can work remotely. And a single job post can travel the world in a moment. Talent is out there—But in our modern world, the challenge involves finding it, recognizing it, and reaching it before your competitors do. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you move forward with your staffing strategy.

Set clear goals.

Of course you’ll have a specific set of goals for each open position you set out to fill. But the overall development of your staffing program should also be broken down into clear, measurable and achievable goals that can help you stay on track and in motion. Where would you like to take your program in one year? How about three years? What will you need to do in order to get there?

Choose the right staffing partner.

If you partner with an experienced, established staffing firm with a wide network of industry connections, you can trust your partners to handle the heavy lifting while you keep your attention focused on running your business. Great staffing pros have strong listening skills, they’re pro-active, they know how to spot top candidates (and red flags) in your field, and they know how to attract talent by pitching the benefits of your company. Choose a partner who can work with you and make your needs a top priority.

Help your staffing firm to help you.

Once you choose a partner, make sure your recruiter (or recruiting team) has a full grasp of your business model and what you need from the candidates who will step into your open positions. Some positions are more complex than others, and some needs hold a higher priority than others. But if you keep the channels of communication open and active, you’ll avoid setbacks and misunderstandings. While you’re at it, provide clear and detailed feedback if your recruiters are presenting candidates who don’t quite fit the bill.

Work with your temps while they work for you.

Leverage one of the strongest benefits of a staffing partnership: The opportunity to test the waters with candidates before making a long-term commitment. As you bring workers in a temporary or temp-to-hire capacity, check in with them frequently to assess their feelings and the state of the relationship. If all goes well, and they seem happy and interested, you can make moves to bring them on board after their contract period ends.

For more on how to team up with a staffing firm to make the most of today’s talent marketplace, reach out to the Fairfeld County recruiting experts at Merritt.

Written and Verbal Communication for Job Seekers

November 11th, 2016

As you work to grab employer attention and win over potential recruiters and hiring managers, your knowledge base and specific job skills will play a strong role. You’ll have to have a demonstrate your ability to handle the sales tasks, clinical techniques, or technical aspects of your daily round. But your hiring managers will pay just as much attention to your communication skills. Can you send a message clearly? Can you provide and accept instructions? Can you win others over to your point of view? And most important of all: are you easy to get along with in a workplace setting? Can you use your words to earn the trust and respect of those around you? Here are a few ways to highlight your strengths as a speaker, listener, writer, reader, and team member.

Recognize that your documents represent you.

Your resume and cover letter don’t just highlight your education and background; they also give your reviewers an excellent example of your skills as a written communicator. If you think they’re only searching for facts and won’t look closely at your grammar, style, and wording, think again. Get all the editing help you need and make sure your application is flawless before you submit.

Your voice matters.

The first impression you make will come from your written application, but the second will probably come from your phone persona. When your employer calls to speak to you, keep your posture straight, speak clearly and smile as you talk (your listen can detect the expression on your face). Keep your voicemail message simple and professional.

Your emails also matter.

During the early stages of the selection process, you may exchange a few emails with your employers to confirm their acceptance of your resume, answer some screening questions, and set up an interview time and date. As you answer, think carefully about every line. Recognize that your tone and your attention to detail can actually make or break your chances at this early stage. Start your relationship off on sound footing.

Polish your interview skills.

Before the date of your scheduled interview, don’t just mark the meeting on your calendar and forget about it. You may see yourself as an experienced interviewee and you might expect your experience, education and skills to win the day for you. But a little practice never hurt anyone, a few sessions with a friend can help you relax and take tough questions in stride when your big day finally arrives. Practice pausing for two full seconds before you answer a question, and practice maintaining relaxed eye contact and a friendly, assertive posture.

For more on how to speak well, write well, and use your communication skills to lard your target job, reach out to the Connecticut staffing team at Merritt.

Preparing Your Staff for the Addition of Temporary Employees

November 4th, 2016

Your new temps are on the way! Which is to say, you’ve sourced, reviewed, and hired a team of temporary employees who will step into your workplace at some point during the next few weeks. Your temps won’t stay long—by nature—but while they’re here, they will be making important contributions and keeping the gears of your enterprise in motion. They might be replacing staff members who are on leave, or adding extra pairs of hands for the busy holiday rush, but no matter what roles they fill, everyone will be happier and more productive if their presence in the office is understood and respected. Here’s how to make that happen.

Provide your current employees with clear timelines.

Your teams should know exactly what day the temps will arrive, and your best estimate of how long they’re going to stay. New coworkers, temporary bosses, direct reports, or office mates should never appear by surprise.

Generate some hype.

Before a new temp arrives, share a few details about the person with the members of her team. Let them know a little bit about the temp’s background and interests, and encourage them to find common ground and icebreaking conversation topics.

Pave the way.

Every new employee should step into a functional workspace on day one, but this is especially important for temps, since the ramp-up period may be very short. If the temp will only be contributing to the company for three weeks, you don’t want the first week to be swallowed up by paper work delays, unavailable work stations, and computers that aren’t functioning yet.

Clarify assignments.

In order to welcome, onboard and train your new temps properly, you’ll need the help and cooperation of your current teams. So make sure each person knows exactly what to do and how to do it. Who will be meeting the new person in the reception area? Who will be taking them to lunch on day one? Who will sit with them to explain the company database? And who will fill in for each of these people while they’re temporarily pulled away from their own responsibilities? Make your expectations clear.

Thank your teams in advance.

The onboarding and transition process can be unpredictable, so thank your teams in advance for their patience and cooperation. While you’re at it, thank them (also in advance) for their welcoming and friendly approach to the newcomers.

Thank them again in retrospect.

Working with temporary employees can be time consuming at first, since they often have questions and require assistance during their first few days and weeks. Thank and reward the full-time team members who go the extra mile to answer these questions and provide this assistance.

No matter how long your temporary employees stay with you, encourage and cultivate a climate of mutual respect. For tips and guidance, reach out to the Connecticut staffing experts at Merritt.

Job Search Mistakes Made by Experienced Professionals

August 19th, 2016

You’ve skimmed through hundreds of articles that warn job seekers away from “common mistakes”, and when you see these headlines, you tend to tune out. After all, you’re an experienced professional, not an entry-level candidate in your 20s. You know better than to show up late for your interview, and you obviously have no plans to lie your potential employers, swear at the receptionist, or submit a resume filled with typos. But just because you’re an experienced employee doesn’t mean you’re immune to mistakes. At your level, common errors aren’t so easy to spot, but they can still prevent you from landing your target position. Watch out for subtle blunders like these.

Too much (of anything)

During entry level interviews, employers are most concerned with basic competence. But at your level, employers are often much more concerned about over-competence. Overqualified candidates require (and deserve) higher salaries than some employers want to pay. They also ask for more, expect more, are harder to mold and shape, and tend to demonstrate lower levels of obedience, eagerness, and loyalty. All of these things are difficult for some employers to take. So at this stage, frame yourself as a fit for the job. Don’t worry about coming off as an all-around superstar.

Desperation

At the entry level, most candidates are on the market for one reason: they want to launch brilliant careers. They just graduated and they’re eager to start the next chapter. But at the mid-level, the reasons behind the job search vary widely. Employers want to know why you’re here. Were you fired? Why? Do you dislike your current job? Why? Have you been searching for a long time? Why? In other words… What’s wrong with you? So make one thing clear: There’s nothing wrong with you. You can do anything you choose, and you choose to do this. Don’t let desperation, limited options, or urgency play a role in your search.

Anger or maladjustment

At the mid-career level, some of the biggest hiring mistakes take place when employers miss or overlook red flags related to attitude and people skills. Employers know this, and they know that people skills are very easy to misread. So they have a sharp eye out for any signs of irritability, poor listening skills, social maladjustment, or anger. Recognize that no matter how impressive your resume, a glimmer of an attitude problem can push you right out of the running.

Entitlement and corner cutting

Mid-level employers are also on the lookout for candidates who have coasted (for one reason or another) through the early stages of their careers. If you’ve lucked your way up the ladder so far, prepare for an extra level of scrutiny as you enter the next chapter. On the other hand, if you’ve had an opportunity to face real challenges, experience real failure, or demonstrate real leadership, sharing these stories can help you separate yourself from the crowd.

For more on how to ace your mid-level job search, turn to the career development experts 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.

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.

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