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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.

Communication

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.

Adaptability

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.

Self-Motivation

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.

Teamwork is Important, But What About Personal Motivation?

February 10th, 2017

You have a slate of interviews lined up with promising candidates, all of whom look great (or at least pretty good) on paper. They all have a record of accomplishments, promising backgrounds, and educational credentials that fit the bill. So when you sit with them at the interview table, you’ll want to delve into the areas that don’t typically show in a resume. First and foremost, you’ll want to know what it’s like to work with a given candidate each day, and how well that candidate will get along with coworkers, clients, and other contacts. You’ll need a team player, for sure.

But you’ll also need a candidate who can keep working hard (and keep doing the right thing) even when the team isn’t around. Is your candidate able to work alone? Can she show initiative and keep herself busy, even without constant oversight? Can he strive to excel even when there’s nobody cheering him on? Here are a few ways to assess personal motivation during an interview.

Stay open ended.

Use open-ended behavioral questions that allow candidates to speak freely and describe themselves on their own terms. For example, if you’ll like to know how well a candidate functions without oversight, frame your question like this: “Have you ever worked in an environment with very little supervision? Tell me about that time.” Or you can try: “What do you typically do during the day when you’ve finished one project but haven’t yet received instructions for the next one?” Avoid any question that can be answered with a yes or no, or with a single word.

Ask for tales of adventure.

Start a few of your questions with phrases that involve superlatives, like “During X period of time, what was the hardest thing you had to do…”, “What made you the most proud…” or “When did you feel the best/worst/most alone/most engaged/most disappointed/ most frustrated….?” These kinds of questions can help you in two ways. First, they offer some insight into a meaningful episode in the candidate’s background and how well he works with others. And second, they can reveal a candidate’s sense of scale and life experience.

Talk about introversion and extroversion.

Discuss the spectrum of introversion and extroversion and ask the candidate to position him or herself on that spectrum. Chances are, after she answers, she’ll keep talking and tell you a little bit more about the social environments that she tends to find draining and energizing.

Be honest about the position.

Half of your interview will involve listening, and half will involve speaking, explaining, and describing the position at hand. If this position will require very high levels of solitude and personal motivation, just say so. Pay close attention to how the candidate reacts.

For more on how to find candidates with the right personal traits for your open position and your workplace, reach out to the Hartford accounting staffing professionals at Merritt.

Reentering the Workforce? Five Ways to Make the Process Easier

July 29th, 2016

If you’ve been absent from the work force for a few years (or more than a few) and you’re trying to elbow your way back in, you may encounter frustrations and obstacles that your competitors don’t have to deal with. But don’t worry; with a little patience and focus, you’ll soon be launching a new chapter of your career story. A few simple re-entry tips can move the process forward.

Keep your expectations reasonable.

Immeasurable amounts of human suffering come not from adverse events, but from inaccurate and unrealistic expectations. When you’re coming back into the market after a period of absence, you’ll have to accept that your search may take a while. There’s nothing wrong with you—you just need to take several swings before you finally hit your homerun. If you let frustration and impatience get the best of you, you may bail out too soon or reduce your expectations and take a second rate job just to have a paycheck. Be patient.

If you don’t have a network, use what you have.

Job seekers are often told to rely on their “network of professional contacts”, but if you haven’t set foot in the workplace in ten years, you probably don’t have a network of professional contacts. That’s okay. Just work with what you do have: friends, family, amiable strangers at social events, and industry people you may meet online. Make the most of these resources and stay in circulation. Make sure your contacts know what you’d like to do and what you’re looking for.

Take a class or volunteer (or both).

In order to brush up on rusty skill sets and demonstrate that you’re still in touch with your field, sign up for a local university or community college course. Meanwhile, if you can find a non-profit group in your area that might benefit from your unique skills sets, submit yourself as a volunteer. Stick with non-profits; too many for-profit corporations will happily accept free labor from anxious mid-career candidates reentering the market, just like you. Don’t allow yourself to be exploited.

Work part time.

Accepting a part time job, even one that lies outside of your industry, can remove some of the urgency from your job search process. Even a modest income can prevent you from accepting the wrong job, working for free, taking a lowball salary, or otherwise making poor decisions out of desperation. You’ll find your way back onto the ladder soon. But in the meantime, you’ll need to keep a cool head and stay in control of your career destiny.

For more on how to polish your skill sets and restart a career climb that’s been on hold for a while, reach out to the professional Fairfield County staffing team at Merritt.

Linkedin Mistakes that Can Make you Look Unprofessional

June 24th, 2016

LinkedIn can be a valuable job search tool if you’re actively looking for work. And even if you’re currently employed, the site can make your profile and career stats available to recruiters in case a better opportunity comes along. So having any small bit of information posted on the site—even just a barebones description or a one-paragraph career summary—might be more advantageous than having nothing posted at all.
Or is it? There are a few common LinkedIn mistakes that can actually turn your profile into a net negative for your job search prospects. If you’re guilty of any of these, consider making some adjustments to your profile or removing it altogether.

Unprofessional updates

Do you respond to every single post that appears in your feed, no matter how meaningless the post or how poorly thought-out the response? Remember, others can see both your posts and your responses, and the things you say (even casual, off-the-cuff remarks) will provide them with impressions that can hurt your reputation. Don’t make thoughtless remarks, don’t be rude, don’t be frivolous, and don’t share posts that are deeply personal. Save those for Facebook.

Starting your profile without completing it

It’s okay to present a lean, minimalist career summary or a short, straightforward, one-line description for each of your past positions. But there’s a difference between a barebones style and an incomplete profile. If you start creating a profile, finish it. Don’t leave half-finished sentences or unanswered questions.

Neglecting to respond

Of course you’ll get plenty of junk mail and meaningless alerts onLinkedIn, as with any other social media site. And of course you don’t have to personally respond to every message, every friend request, and every stranger’s eager attempt at self-promotion. But when you get a message that you care about, respond quickly. This will demonstrate that you do actually check the site on a regular basis and LinkedIn is a valid and reliable way to communicate with you.

Negativity

If you disagree with another person’s post, theory, or opinion on LinkedIn, keep a cool head. Don’t start public wars on LinkedIn where your every word, including your witty retorts, can be read by potential employers. When it comes to career building and personal marketing, negativity is negative, plain and simple.

Never checking the site at all.

LinkedIn won’t do you any good if you never visit the site at all (as in, fewer than once every six months). If you don’t plan to check for alerts, accept new contact requests, respond to messages, or read posts and updates, take your profile down. You’ll only frustrate those who use the site to reach out to you.

For more on how to get the most out of LinkedIn during your job search, contact the Westchester County experts at Merritt.

Managing Your Professional Reputation

May 27th, 2016

In our digital age, your reputation is a 24-hour engine, and it’s always working even when you’re not. A generation ago, managing your reputation simply meant monitoring your words and behavior around others and working hard to accumulate a record of accomplishments and skills that could help you climb the ladder. When someone asked, you could show them your resume and work forward from there. But at this point, curious employers and network contacts don’t have to ask. They can simply type your name into a search engine and form an opinion based on what they find.

Is this a positive development? It depends on who you ask, and when. Can it support your success during the job search process? Yes. But it can also hold you back. Here are a few moves that can help you control and make the most of your online reputation.

Look yourself up.

Start your reputation management program by taking the steps a stranger might take to learn more about you. Type your name into Google and check your Facebook settings to determine which of your photos and posts are publicly visible. Knowledge is power, so make this move first.

Address the negative.

If strangers and potential employers can easily find information that embarrasses or misrepresents you, find a way to close this down or rein it in. Tighten your privacy settings, remove some of your awkward past tweets, and reach out to others who have posted or shared negative information attached to your name. Ask them to take it down.

Start building up the positive.

After you’ve addressed what you can and made peace with what you can’t, move on. Start flooding the airwaves with positive press and build up search results that frame you in a glowing, trustworthy light. Start a professional blog, establish yourself as an industry expert, and share news of your recent awards and publications. Use every channel available to you, including twitter and Facebook.

Make an appearance on Linkedin.

If you don’t yet have a profile available on Linkedin, establish one now. Include a flattering professional picture of yourself and the basic framework of your education and work history. You don’t have to share anything you don’t want the world to see, but if you include your name, photo, target job title, and geographic area, employees and recruiters will be more likely to contact you.

Post your resume.

No matter how you decide to do this, make your resume available to anyone who might be looking for it. You can use your personal blog, your website, or your Linkedin profile, but allow visitors and potential employers to glean the information they need without having to ask.
For more on how to create, build, and maintain and online presence that helps you shine, reach out to the Danbury staffing and job search team at Merritt Staffing.

What are your Future Plans?

April 15th, 2016

Regardless of your specific industry or the nature of your target position, there’s a strong chance that your interviewer will eventually ask you about your future plans and ambitions, and when the conversation shifts toward this topic, you’ll want to be ready. Can you share your future plans in a way that’s honest, relevant and interesting? Can you frame your goals in way that aligns with the needs and goals of your future employer? Here are a few tips that can help you ace this aspect of your interview.

Plan ahead.

Since you know this question is coming your way, work out the details of your answer beforehand, so you aren’t caught off guard. A little research can help you frame a response that works for both you and for your potential employer. If this company plans to develop a foothold in a niche market that you understand in depth, or launch a product that lies within your area of interest and expertise, highlight this connection. Otherwise, simply map out a response that’s articulate, clear, and concise.

Don’t sputter out.

Far too often, interviewers encounter candidates (especially younger candidates) who do not seem to know or care what will become of them in the future. When they’re asked to describe their future ambitions, they freeze and fall silent, or they simply gaze two steps down the path ahead and mumble something like “Well….I want a job that can help me pay off my debts.” Don’t do this. Of course you want “a job”; that’s why you’re here. But aim higher and dig deeper. What would you really like to get out of this experience, and where do you see yourself five years from now?

Focus on skill overlaps.

If you hold a degree in accounting, and this is an accounting position, that’s great. But since every other candidate will also hold a similar degree and similar accounting plans, bring another one of your skill sets and interests into the mix. For example, you may also be bilingual. Or you may also be interested in art and design. Or you may also have a science background. Explain how your dual interests and areas of expertise can specifically benefit your employer; this can help set you apart from the rest of the applicant pool.

Focus on your body language.

In addition to your words, your non-verbal gestures should also send the message that no matter where you’re going, you’re determined, energetic, and ambitious. Maintain eye contact and lean forward as your speak. Keep an eye on your interviewer to make sure they’re following along and understanding you.
For more on how to explain your future plans and keep your interview on track to success, contact the job search and staffing team at Merritt.

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