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Leadership Traits Your Talent Needs

September 14th, 2018

Think only upper-level management candidates need leadership skills to succeed in your workplace? Think again. Ideally, every candidate for every job should recognize there’s a time to lead AND a time to follow, and that both actions require certain skills. Excellent candidates know how to read a situation and respond with either purposeful leadership or purposeful compliance, depending on the needs of the moment. And when the moment calls for leadership, the best candidates—even at the most junior level—know how to rise to the occasion. Here are a few of the leadership traits that are always valuable, no matter the role.

Situational awareness.

Does your candidate sit still and wait patiently until he’s told exactly what to do by whomever he perceives as an authority figure? That’s probably a bad sign. Not only does it suggest a decision-making blind spot, it also suggests the candidate may do a poor job of assessing authority. Highly passive people tend to follow orders without considering the actual role of the person giving it. Choose candidates who understand how the chain of command works and won’t blindly yield to the loudest person in the room.

Can your candidate spot a problem and take steps to fix it?

If your candidate witnesses a leaky pipe, a team miscommunication, a toxic relationship between two other team members or a mathematical error in a budget, how do they respond? Do they decide it isn’t their problem? Or do they make note of it, look for a solution, speak out, speak up, and get the issue addressed? Choose the candidate who will get answers and take action, even if they don’t immediately know what to do or how to do it.

Can your candidate say no?

There’s a time for yes and a time for no, and your candidate should be able to exercise each option under the appropriate circumstances. A doormat candidate will eventually feel resentful and bitter, and all employees need to take a share of responsibility for their own boundaries, schedules and limitations. If your candidate is asked to do something incorrect, unethical, harmful to their own well-being, harmful to the company, or harmful to customers or community members, will they have the strength to say no? Or can they ask directly for the resources and support they need? If so, consider this a plus.

Can your candidate say yes?

On the other end of the scale, can your candidate put others first when necessary? Can they move outside of their comfort zone when asked to stay late, make a difficult decision, stand in front of a group to speak, deliver painful news to someone, or put the needs and comfort of direct reports ahead of their own?

For more on how to choose a leader—even for a nonleadership role—turn to the hiring pros at Merritt.

Are You Wasting Time with a Generic Resume?

August 10th, 2018

In some ways, creating one beautiful, polished resume and then sending that single document to every employer on your list can save time. If you invest hours (or even weeks) in every detail of your perfect document, you can capitalize on that time investment by simply clicking attach and send each time you find a job post you’d like to pursue. Put in three days upfront, then spend five seconds on every application.

But unfortunately, no part of the job search (or life) is ever quite that simple. Far too often, employers complain that the resumes they receive seem “generic”, or one-size-fits-all. They get the impression that candidates are simply blanketing the landscape with pre-fabricated resumes and hoping that these resumes fall into the right hands.

So what’s a busy job seeker to do? You can’t afford to spend an entire day on every application, but a beige, un-customized resume may not impress your target hiring managers…So how can you resolve this conundrum? Here are a few moves to keep in mind.

Find a middle ground.

Create a sharp template resume with just a few blanks that can be filled in separately for each submission. For example, leave your target job title blank, and shape that insertion to fit each individual job you pursue.

Actually read the job post.

When employers are offended or put-off by generic resumes, it’s not because they’re entitled or expect candidates to treat them like royalty. It’s because the resumes they receive don’t seem to line up well with the job post. Their job may in the manufacturing field, and they’re receiving thoughtless mass resume submissions from seekers in healthcare or retail. They feel spammed, and they need to invest some considerable time in separating these auto-submissions from real ones submitted by serious candidates. Give these harried employers a break and make sure you actually WANT the job before you send a resume.

When you find your dream job, treat it like a dream job.

You may send ten resumes a day to “maybe” jobs that may or may not be perfect for you. That’s okay. But when you find a job post that truly IS perfect for you, a job you’d do cartwheels for, clear your schedule. Really sit down with the post for a while—and conduct a careful review of the employer’s website—so you can pour your whole heart into your resume submission. Shape your words around this job, and only this job. Clarify exactly how your experience and background set you up for success with this specific company. Chances are, your thoughtful investment will pay off.

For more on how to tailor your resume when necessary (and send a generic application when necessary), contact the job search team at Merritt.

Hiring For Adaptability

August 3rd, 2018

You want a candidate who can demonstrate the technical skills and work ethic that your open position will require, and of course you want a candidate who believes in your product or service and who can represent your company to potential customers. But you also need a candidate who can stand out in one specific area: adaptability.

Why choose an adaptable candidate? Because not every company culture can be custom tailored to match the kind of social fabric that your new employee may be used to. Not every path can be made perfectly smooth for him or her during transitions or training. Not every instruction will make perfect sense, and not every plan or project can be perfectly organized. Sometimes your employee will face the unexpected, be asked to change course at a moment’s notice, or be asked to find common ground with people and personalities he finds unfamiliar. If he can adapt and stay flexible, he’ll thrive. If not, he’ll drag the organization down. Keep these considerations in mind during the hiring process.

Has your employee “seen the world”?

If your candidate can tell you about some adventures, previous jobs, travel, mistakes, or challenges she’s faced in the past, both inside and outside of work, that’s a good sign. If your candidate has never veered (or been pushed) from a narrow path that winds from high school to college to internship to office cubicle, without a single misstep, plot twist, or interesting personal decision, beware.

How does your candidate handle stress?

If you can’t see for yourself, just ask. Interviews are stressful, so if your candidate is clearly brimming with nervous energy and yet handling herself with poise and composure, that’s great. If you see a bead of sweat or a shaky hand and that hand belongs to a candidate who can still think before she speaks, put that in the plus column. If you can’t read any stress in her non-verbal gestures, just ask. Ask her to describe a time in the past when she felt overwhelmed, pulled in multiple directions, or pressured to show flexibility. Ask what happened and how the story played out.

Ask how her own standards differ from those she applies to others.

A highly flexible and adaptable candidate can switch gears on a moment’s notice, but she also knows how to respond to confusing or rigid behavior from other people. If she can show up on time, even when the meeting venue changes at the last minute, that’s good. If she can forgive and work around others who show up a minute late, that’s even better.

For more on how to assess and identify adaptability in your top candidates, contact the staffing experts at Merritt.

Should I Consider Temporary Accounting Jobs?

July 27th, 2018

Maybe you aren’t a certified accountant, and maybe you haven’t given much thought to accepting a temporary job. But here are a few reasons why you might want to take a short term or project-based position in the accounting field as a means of advancing your career. If you fit any of these descriptions listed below, reach out to our staffing team and find out what we can do for you.
You aren’t an accountant, but you’d like to become one.

During tax season, accounting and tax preparation firms usually have several positions open to support, and administrative staff. The temporary employees who step into these roles help carry the burden of a very hectic season, and they help make sure that no task falls through the cracks. Taking on a role in an accounting firm can give you some insight into the business, and you might learn something while you earn something. Most important, you’ll get a chance to see if this really is—or isn’t—the career for you.

You aren’t an accountant, but you ARE something else.

Accounting offices don’t just need CPAs. They also need marketing staff, managers, IT pros, communications experts, and a host of other jobs that are always vital but become even more so during peak seasons. If you’re between full-time jobs in your own field, or you’ve recently moved to a new city and haven’t found a permanent position yet, consider a temp role. You’ll certainly be needed, and you’ll have the freedom to leave once something in your own field opens up.

Networking can boost your career.

Accounting teams often have insight into a wide range of industries, and accountants often have clients and contacts well outside their own small corner of the marketplace. It never hurts to meet new people and make new connections, and a temporary job in a cross-disciplinary field may be a great place to start.

Temporary jobs are easy to step in and out of.

Many job seekers (if not most) have considered taking a permanent full time position with a new employer, while privately preparing to leave the minute something better appears. Using a new job as a stepping stone is very common and it’s not unethical, but it does create some hassle, cost and inconvenience for the employers who showed enough initial interest in you to extend an offer. Instead, consider stepping into a temporary job while you continue to search for a position you expect to keep for the long term. You’ll leave behind a trail of good will, positive recommendations, and completed projects when you do.

For more on why (and how) to accept a temporary position in an accounting firm, contact the staffing team at Merritt.

What You Need to Know About Every Candidate

July 13th, 2018

As you launch into the initial screening and selection stages of the staffing process, there are a few things about each candidate you absolutely don’t need to know. These include your candidate’s ethnicity, religion, family status and sexual orientation, which may not be visible on the surface. They also include race, age, disability status or appearance (which may become apparent when you meet). These aspects of the candidate’s life should remain unknown as long as possible, if not forever.

But there are a few things you WILL need to know, and you’re better off obtaining this information as quickly as possible during the process. Save money, time and hassle for both the candidate and yourself by moving quickly toward these key data points.

Where the candidate lives.

More accurately, will the candidate be commuting a daily? And where will the candidate need to relocate from to accept the job? Will you be flying candidates in for interviews? Will you be covering relocation costs? Are you willing to accept a candidate who faces a miserable commute and may leave as soon as a closer opportunity becomes available? Answer these questions before you move forward.

What the candidate wants to do now and three years from now.

Two points of alignment may spell success or failure: what the candidate wants to do in the present, and what they want to do in the future. If they aren’t interested in or not qualified (just yet) to take on the daily tasks of the role, that’s important. If they’re fine with the daily tasks but want to advance within a year and won’t be able to do so if they take this job, that’s also worth noting. Get a sense of their long- and short-term mission.

Uncover any legal issues impeding the process.

Does the candidate have the appropriate visas or working papers to take the job? In this case, age may play a meaningful role, since you need to know they are old enough to enter the workplace.

Is this the right industry?

Almost every industry offers professional jobs in interdisciplinary fields (like marketing, sales, IT, PR, product development, product testing, etc.). A marketing or administrative candidate can easily move throughout their career from one major industry sector to another. But the question is: Do they want to? Are they interested in applying their marketing skills to this sector? Will this further their career or hold him back?

Can the candidate get over the highest hurdle?

This job may have one major issue that makes the position hard to staff (for example, a remote location, long hours or one odd problem that frequently sends candidates out the door). Determine the candidate’s feelings about this before you get into fine-grain details.

For more on how to move efficiently through the search process, contact the staffing team at Merritt.

Support Your Job Search by Working with a Recruiter

June 22nd, 2018

You may be steaming forward with your job search, collecting one offer after another and sifting through them at your leisure. If you are, well done! But if you’re like most candidates, the job search can feel like an uphill climb with no clear end in sight, and even when you find an acceptable job, land an offer and start working, you may not feel like staying in your new role for very long. If the job turns out to be a bad match, you may be back on the market again and back to square one within a year. So what can you do to shift the odds in your favor, land more and better offers, and put the search behind you for good? Try working with a recruiter! Here’s how partnering with an expert can help you move forward.

Recruiters have bigger networks than you do.

No matter how many people you know in your industry, your recruiter probably knows more. It’s her job to know people, connect people, and place the right person in the right role with a few phone calls or the click of a mouse. She’s been in this business for a long time, and while networking is something you may do now and then, she’s networking all day, all week, and all year.

Recruiters have plenty of experience with successful matches AND mistakes.

Your recruiter knows what a great match looks and feels like. This knowledge comes from a combination of hard data, gut instinct, great listening skills, and years of trial and error. Just as she can help her employer clients spot red flags and questionable candidates, she can help steer you toward the role that’s right for you and away from one that spells certain trouble. For example, if you’re gunning for a promotion to management within three years, she’ll help you find employers who can provide real opportunity—not just empty promises.

Recruiters help you without charging you.

Your recruiter works for her employer clients, not for you. These employers are looking for great candidates, they want help, they hire her, and voila…She’s on the trail of the perfect new employee, and that employee could be you. But since it’s her job to help the company find you, she’s paid by the company, not by you. If she gives you advice, take it to heart. If she asks for information that can help you, provide it quickly. You’ll “pay” your way by matching with the right company, so recognize how this system can work in your favor if you use it correctly.

For more on how to enlist the help of a recruiter during your job search, reach out to the career development team at Merritt.

Retain Top Financial Employees

June 8th, 2018

Like anyone else on your team, financial and accounting employees are likely to respond to common sense retention efforts; to keep them, you’ll need to respect their skills, respect their time, and pay them competitively. Chances are, your management experience has already shown you the benefits of these basic positive approaches to staffing and employee development. But retention is like an onion, and peeling away each layer tends to reveal more layers underneath. Yes, you need to treat your employees well…but how? And yes, you need to pay them, but what about your budget? Here are a few secondary thoughts that can support your larger goals.

Compensation is more that just salary.

Financial and accounting pros already know this, and you should too. If you can’t afford to compete with similar firms in your area, try adjusting your compensation package to add more benefits and perks. Reexamine your health plan provider, offer flexible hours, provide tuition support for employees who want to further their educations, add an on-site childcare facility, add a cafeteria, compensate commuters, and do whatever it takes to make your meager or average salaries add up to more overall by the year’s end.

Culture goes a long, long way.

Changing your culture might not be as hard or cost as much as you think. But keep one thing in mind: studies show that even underpaid employees with difficult and dangerous jobs will go the extra mile (and stay the extra year) for a company that feels like family. A friendly, welcoming, respectful, flexible culture can mean the difference between keeping a talented hire for a decade and saying goodbye to them within six months. Smart, experienced financial pros won’t put up with a toxic culture, nor should they.

Prepare to counteroffer.

If you really like your employee and you often find yourself saying “I don’t know what we’d do without her”, get ready for the day she resigns. It can and will happen eventually, so prepare for the day by setting up a system of operations that doesn’t depend entirely on her unique contributions. And in the meantime, keep a rough counteroffer estimate on your back burner. The day she shares her plans to leave, swoop quickly into action.

Listen and respond.

When top financial employees need something, accommodate them. And keep in mind that top employees rarely “complain”. Instead, they hint, react, and suggest. Don’t wait for your employee to storm into your office and demand more flexible hours or a lighter workload—That won’t happen. Instead, he’ll accept assignments with slightly less enthusiasm (he might say “I’ll see what I can do” instead of “Sure thing, boss!”) Listen for the signs, and be proactive. If you think it’s time to offer support, start a conversation and ask.

For more on how to retain your most talented contributors, reach out to the team at Merritt.

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.

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.

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