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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.

Recruit Hard-to-Find Top Talent

May 11th, 2018

To find the very best talent available, especially for a hard-to-staff position, you’ll have to do more than just cast a net and hope for the best. Most of your competitors will follow a straightforward path; they’ll publish a job post in a high traffic area, collect applications, and interview the best candidates from this initial pool…but that’s not exactly going the extra mile. And if you expect candidates who will pull out all the stops for your company, you’ll need to pull out all the stops first in order to find and attract them. Set yourself apart from the competition by making these extra moves.

First, research.

Carpenters measure twice so they can cut once, and your recruiting efforts should follow the same pattern. Before you begin drafting your post, conduct some research on your target audience, and set your sights high. Don’t just approach all new university graduates in a tri-state radius; instead, target relevant programs and majors, and seek candidates with specific certifications and areas of experience. Your research will tell you which ones.

Second, shape your message.

Once you’ve identified the population you’d like to target in your recruiting efforts, determine the kinds of motivations that are likely to attract and inspire this population. Do your target candidates want to make a difference in the world? Are they interested in money? Are they curious, ambitious, and driven? What will make them choose you over anther employer?

Third, partner with a pro.

Turn to an experienced recruiting firm to help you pick up on subtle signals and moves that you might otherwise miss, the moves that could mean the difference between attracting the best candidates and driving them away. Experienced, industry-specific recruiters know exactly what your target employees are looking for, and they know how to ask the right questions, conduct appropriate screening, and negotiate with these candidates in order to bring them on board. If you aren’t working with a recruiter already, consider adding this extra element of support to your staffing strategy.

When you spot top candidates, don’t let them get away.

Playing hardball with excellent candidates can undermine an otherwise promising approach. Once you have their attention, ask plenty of questions so you can understand what they need and want from their careers. And then quell the impulse to nickel-and-dime them into the arms of your competitors. Over the long term, it’s wise to pay a little more for a top candidate who will come on board, commit, and stay. While you’re at it, let go of perfectionism. Instead of engaging in a year-long search for a candidate who offers everything, prioritize your requirements and set your sights on the candidate who can offer most—if not all—of what you need.

For more on how to recruit and hire like a seasoned expert, turn to the New Haven County staffing team at Merritt.

Candidates: Prepare to Answer Questions About Past Employment

March 23rd, 2018

As you sit down with your prospective employer during your interview, you can expect to answer questions about the future; you’ll be asked what you want to do next, where you see yourself in a few years, and what you’ll contribute to the enterprise after you’re brought on board. But you’ll also be asked about the past, and your interviewers will want to know what you’ve been up to, and why, and for whom. Here’s how to handle questions about events you can’t change and decisions you’ve already made.

Don’t be relentlessly positive.

If your entire past comes across as one unbroken, blinding ray of sunshine and unmitigated success, your interviewers will naturally assume you aren’t providing the full story. In an interview, it’s better to let your honesty shine then your “success” (however you define that term). Managers are familiar with the type of smoke that gets blown in the interview setting, and they won’t be impressed by a candidate who seems never to have experienced a single mistake or setback. But they will be impressed by a candidate who tells an honest story, appears refreshingly self-aware, and feels comfortable with his or her unique set of likes, dislikes, strengths, and limitations.

Demonstrates these two core skills.

As a candidate, you’ll stand out if you can do two things, things that far too many candidates can’t do at all: connect and learn. If you can treat your interviewer as a friend and respected colleague who deserves to see you as you truly are, you’ll instantly set yourself apart. Small things like eye contact, honesty, engagement, and fearlessness can further this effort. You’ll also stand out if you show the ability to learn from mistakes and problems. If you cling to platitudes or myths instead of trusting your own experience and listening to what it tells you, you’ll have trouble gaining your interviewer’s confidence.

Stories carry more weight than explanation and exposition.

If your employer asks why you left a previous job, you can answer in either of two ways. You can explain, or you can tell a story. If you explain, you may say something like “I had no voice with upper management. I had useful ideas, but they were not implemented.” If you choose the other route, you’ll tell a story about a specific appearance of this specific workplace dynamic. Your story will leave a greater impact and last longer in your interviewer’s memory than your explanation. The same applies to questions about your accomplishments. Set the stage and tell the tale, don’t just share your accomplishment as if you’re reading it from a list.

For more on how to impress interviewers while describing your professional past, turn to the job search experts at Merritt.

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.

 

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