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Traits to Look for in Top Talent

March 9th, 2018

As an experienced manager, you already know that hiring is an expensive process, and you recognize the risks involved in making a serious hiring decision based on a simple resume review and a few rounds of 30-minute interviews. If you examine this limited data and make the right decision, you send your company down a path of growth and positivity. If you make the wrong choice, you can pay a high price only to end up with a struggler who contributes little and leaves within one calendar year. This simple choice comes with very high stakes. So how can you size up your candidate and make smart assumptions based on what you see? Look for these visible qualities.


Some hiring managers embrace a theory that goes like this: “Job skills” are all that matter, and any skills that fall outside a narrowly defined, job-specific list are irrelevant. A plumber needs to connect pipes, end of story. A data analyst needs to analyze data. A surgeon needs to use a scalpel– and nothing else– in order to do a good job. But buy into this logic at your own risk. If your candidate can hold up her end of a lively and interesting conversation, or if he can write a cover letter that grabs and maintains your respect, that’s a good sign. If he speaks in monosyllables, can’t write, and can’t make himself understood on the phone, those are all red flags regardless of the job description.


Great candidates (for any job) know how to keep things in perspective and recover quickly from surprises and setbacks. Don’t cancel or reschedule your interview at the last minute just to test a candidate’s ability to adapt (this is rude), but if you need to shift gears for unexpected reasons, observe how the candidate reacts. A last-minute meeting room change or a surprising question from left field can serve the same purpose. Great candidates take things lightly and stay on their feet.


It might seem nice to hire an employee who does exactly what he’s told, on time, every time. A can-do attitude and an obedient smile might seem invaluable, at least on the surface. But before you sign on with such a person, make sure he knows what to do when clear instructions are not forthcoming. Great candidates don’t just do what they’re told and then check out; they keep track of the company’s larger goals and they find productive ways to contribute, even when their bosses aren’t telling them what to do. Choose a candidate who can see the big picture and who will independently find ways to apply her skills and time.

For more on how to choose the candidates that are most likely to succeed in your workplace, contact the Stamford recruiting and management team at Merritt.

Recruit Candidates Who Will Shine

January 26th, 2018

Experienced hiring managers know that a successful staffing process is built upon several pillars. In order to round out the year with a winning employee who started out as a top candidate, hiring managers need to focus an equal degree of attention on all the pillars: sourcing, recruiting, resume review, interviews, background checks, and finally, a smooth onboarding process. So for now, let’s isolate just one of the links that crucial chain: recruiting.

Once you’ve targeted a population of likely stars through your sourcing efforts, how can you encourage these potentially excellent candidates to apply? And just as important, how can you inspire them to feel genuine excitement about the company and the prospect of working there? Here are a few moves that can help you light a spark in a population of candidates who best poised to shine when they walk in the door.

Clearly separate your “must-haves” from your “pluses”.

Understand the nature of the job well enough to recognize the difference between needs and wants. To do this, you’ll need to communicate clearly with all stakeholders, including the future employee’s coworkers, boss, clients, and customers. Use appropriate channels to glean critical information from all of these corners. Then give the “must-have” skills and credentials top billing in your job post.

Ask the right questions—Not just smart questions.

Yes, you want a candidate who has a can-do attitude, a winning smile, high energy, and loads of loads of ambiguous brilliance and charm. But most of those aren’t real things. Take a closer look and shape your message around the actual candidate who you actually need. Instead of all-around “winner”, you probably need somebody who can design a marketing plan, code in XTML, or stand on his feet all day long. Maybe you need someone isn’t disgusted by a menial task, driven bonkers by unpredictable clients, or turned off by periodic episodes of lonely travel. Focus your targeting efforts around these specific needs. Can the candidate meet them or not?

Partner with a great recruiter.

Experienced, established recruiters make use of a wide network of contacts and an array of tools that can help them reach out to your target audience—and only your target audience. Using both online and real-world methods, our team can head out into the marketplace and bring back a wide pool of highly qualified candidates. Even better, we know how to target the prospects who are most likely to accept your offer, join the company, contribute, and stay.

For more on how to find and pursue the candidate population that best meets your needs, reach out to the expert CT recruiting team at Merritt.

If You’re Not Learning, You’re Falling Behind

January 12th, 2018

As you work your way through an average day, hour by hour, how many of those hours find you facing down a daunting, confusing, or excited new challenge you’ve never faced before? During an average week, how often do you find yourself getting nervous about a big task, sweating in front of a critical audience, or tackling a project with higher stakes than you’re used to?

If none of these scenarios apply to you, and you’re spending your days moving through a series of simple tasks and challenges that you could do in your sleep at this point, maybe it’s time to wake yourself up. You may be trapped in a comfort zone that will hold you in its soft embrace for the rest of your working life—If you’re lucky enough to keep this job forever and if your ambitions extend no farther than these walls. If you’d rather not see yourself in the same chair in 20 years, it’s time to start learning some new things…and that means discomfort. Face that discomfort head on and power through by keeping these tips in mind.

Nobody else will do it for you.

Your boss might gently chide you into reaching for a higher bar, but it’s not her job to coach you or take the wheel of your career. That wheel belongs to you alone, so if you’re waiting for her to come over to your desk and sign you up for a training course, or shove you beyond your familiar boundaries, you may be waiting a long time. You’ll have to do this yourself. And you’ll have to start today instead of waiting until all the conditions are perfectly in place. (They never will be).

Opportunities exist in this workplace and also beyond.

You can go to your boss and ask her to sign you up for that course if you choose, and that’s a great start. But if she can’t or won’t, or has nothing to offer you, your mission isn’t over. There are plenty of online and local community courses available all around you, and your company may even be willing to foot the bill if you declare your intentions and ask.

Bite off more than you can chew.

Sometimes the best way to learn to swim is by jumping in over your head. Accept a project or a task that you aren’t totally sure you can sleepwalk through. Put yourself in the path of trouble, then be your own hero and save the day.

For more on how to get out of your rut and explore new branches of your industry, new software platforms, new technical skills, and new opportunities, contact the career management experts at Merritt.

Are You Taking Too Long to Hire?

December 8th, 2017

As you launch your hiring process, you probably start with a few clear goals in mind; you want the right candidate, at the right salary, and you want the person to start at a time that’s convenient for your own schedule and the company’s needs. If you adjust your focus and think into the long term, you also hope for a few other things: you want a candidate who will stay with the company for at least a year or two, and you want someone who will leave the place in a better state then they found it. But as you strive for these goals, keep one thing in mind: your candidate has goals as well. And if she attains hers, you’ll be more likely to attain yours.

In addition to a suitable salary and employment terms, most candidates are making their plans around a timeline. If they left their last employer, they may be concerned about securing a new form of income. If they’d really like to leave their current employer ASAP, a few days can make a big difference, not to mention a few weeks or months. So to respect your candidate’s goals and timelines, make sure your hiring process stays efficient and on pace. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Move it or lose it.

If your timeline doesn’t keep pace with your candidate’s timeline, they may be scooped up by a competitor or simply lose patience before your formal offer materializes. If you find yourself constantly bringing your second, third, and fourth choice contenders on board, this may be why.

Just ask.

During the selection and interview process, ask your candidate about her timeline and availability. You may not get a complete answer (some of the story may be personal) but you’ll gather some data points that can give you an accurate sense of urgency.

Clear the red tape.

Don’t let an offer or a contract gather dust in the HR office while key personnel are on vacation. Transfer the task to someone else and move the process forward.

Recognize big obstacles ahead of time.

The biggest and most immovable roadblocks in your path should not come as a surprise. If you know the lab moves slowly to process hepatitis test results, consider contracting with another facility. If your background checks seem to account for the lion’s share of your delays, find out why.

Partner with a recruiter.

If paperwork, tax accounting, insurance forms, approvals, clearances, background checks and other administrative hassles are holding back key stages of your hiring process, hand them off to qualified recruiters like the local staffing professionals at Merritt. This is what we do, so let us take this burden off your shoulders so you can get back to running your business.

Stop Relying on Your Manager for Performance Reviews

November 17th, 2017

Are you waiting all year long for your annual performance review in order to get feedback on how you’re doing at work? Have you ever given a huge presentation or a high stakes project in June, only to hear in December that you aced it or didn’t quite hit the mark? If you have no idea how successful you are at your job, and you’re waiting for your boss to tell you how well your projects are being received, how widely you’re respected, or how likely you are to climb the ladder, that’s not great. Instead of relying on your manager’s opinion (especially if that means waiting all year for a formal review), change course and find alternative ways to evaluate your performance. Consider these moves.

Read the room.

You’ve worked for weeks on your sales pitch and you’ve lost sleep and stayed late at the office to make sure every detail is perfect. But during the actual presentation, you’ll need to stop thinking about your sweaty palms long enough to look around. Take the focus out of yourself and place it on your audience, and do this in the moment whenever possible. You will never receive a more honest and useful response then the expressions in the room while your performance is underway. But reading real-time responses will require a degree of self-possession and calm that may take some effort to summon.

Ask your direct reports how you’re doing.

Asking your boss for daily reviews of your performance can come off as needy and insecure, and asking your coworkers for constant feedback can come off as a confidence problem. But asking your direct reports won’t entail that type of baggage. You’re there to support the people who work for you, and asking them how you’re doing (and how you can do better) is usually received as a welcome sign of strong and engaged leadership.

Check the numbers.

Numbers don’t usually lie, and if your projects are consistently coming in on time and under budget, that’s a strong sign that you’re doing fine, at least on paper. But if your missed deadlines and overbudget projects are starting to creep above the average for your position, something’s wrong. Even if you had a good reason each time you missed the mark, you still missed it, and there’s probably something you can do to get your numbers up.

Even if you’re doing well, there are ways you can do better.

Remove your sense of harsh self-judgement and take a step back. Even if you’re doing a perfectly adequate—or exceptional—job, there must be at least one area in which you can focus your efforts on growth and improvement. So which area is it? If you have to pick one, which one would it be?

For more on how to conduct your own honest performance reviews instead of relying on feedback from others (especially your boss), turn to the career management team at Merritt Staffing.

Showcase Your Company Culture to Attract Top Talent

April 10th, 2015

When it comes to attracting talented applicants, you have plenty of tools at your disposal and plenty of aces in your hand. You offer fair and competitive salary rates, your benefit package is attractive, your workplace is safe and clean, your brand is respected, and your turnover is low (if any of these things don’t apply to your company, now is the perfect time to make some changes). But as valuable as any of these other selling features may be, you also offer a terrific company culture. Here’s how to make the most of this important detail.

Know how to Describe Your Culture

A “terrific” company culture means different things to different people. When you look around your office, what do you see? Are your employees quiet and diligent? Are they noisy and extroverted? Do they compete or collaborate? Are they driven or laid back? Any of these descriptors can be presented in a positive light…Just make sure you know which ones can honestly be applied to your workplace.

Consider Your Target Applicant

What kinds of candidates would you like to attract? Are you looking for bold risk takers who speak up even when their ideas haven’t been carefully considered? Or do you prefer cautious rule-followers who respect an established hierarchy? Are you looking for driven loners who will stay till midnight? Or would rather hire relaxed team players who watch out for each other and leave at five to attend to well-rounded personal lives? Before you try to pitch your culture as a selling feature, recognize who you’re pitching it to…and respect the kinds of social elements these candidates might prefer.

Go to the Source

Screen-focused millennial candidates who are online 24-7 can best be reached though appropriate social media channels. Seasoned corporate leaders at the mid-career stage can be best reached through industry organizations and higher level networking events. Trusted experts in narrow fields can be reached through specialized channels, and broad workers with general talents can be reached through national job boards. Keep in mind that workers in all of these categories are attracted to companies that emphasize productivity and show clear respect for their employees.

Let your Pride Show

If there’s something about your company culture that makes you proud, don’t hide that feature… Show it off! If you go out of your way to take care of employees at each stage of their working lives, from cultivating new graduates to supporting those who are planning families or preparing for retirement, make this clear. If you encourage your workers to laugh and socialize with each other, make this known. If your teams are driven to win at all costs, brag about this to your candidates. If they like what they see, then they represent the right matches for you. If not, they’ll self-select.

For more on how to show off your company culture to attract candidates who share your values, consult with the staffing experts at Merritt.



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