Just Tell Us – We Can Cope

 We’re a fabulous staffing service here at Merit. We love all our clients, we love all our candidates, and best of all we love placing the correct candidate in the correct job. We’re so upbeat and Pollyanna, it’s nauseating.
We do sometimes have eye-rolling and Deep Sigh moments with a thankfully very small number of our candidates. Your behavior sometimes lacks, what shall we call it…finesse. And we think it’s more because you don’t understand the system. If you are dealing with something that you find awkward to tell us, you decide not to tell us, but instead to hide under the kitchen table with your raincoat over your head so no-one will notice you (oh, hang on, that’s what four-year-olds do when they misbehave).
So, here’s the scoop, and the scenarios that have you floundering around wondering what to do.
Scenario 1. You have interviewed  the requisite number of times for a nice job with one of our clients. They love you enough to offer you the position, and when we call you to give you the offer you don’t return our increasingly anguished calls and emails.  Because it transpires and occurs that you were all the while interviewing for another position that appealed more for any number of reasons. TAKE THE JOB YOU PREFER. I mean, WE would. Why didn’t you tell us you have another possibility? You don’t have to give us all the details (“What did you say the HR manager’s cell phone was?” No, we’re not that sort of staffing service), just the timing of it, so that we can tell our client the time constraints they have for their processes. We look bad/eedjits/incompetent to our client and we try to keep a relationship going with them for years – none of those descriptions will help us do that.
If you have another possibility going at the same time as ours, it DOESN’T affect your chances with our client; they know that you’re job searching and have to cover all bases.  Just tell us what stage the other thing is at, and we can work accordingly around it. Disappearing off the face of the earth gets us cross and frustrated.
Scenario 2. Interviewing chugging along nicely, the client has already offered/is about to offer you the position of your dreams. “By the way,” you start a conversation with us. Conversations that start “by the way”, are rarely good. “I have a vacation booked/operation planned/jury duty/court appearance/have to leave early on Thursdays.” Again, we look bad/eedjits/incompetent – we’re supposed to find out from candidates what restrictions they have; it’s part of the service we provide to clients. It most likely won’t affect your offer chances and we can work round it. Not mentioning till late in the process won’t improve your chances. Au contraire.  
Scenario 3. The client wants to see you on a particular date, with lots of notice, or short notice, either way. You’ve done a disappearing act so we can’t confirm. Calling us at midnight for the next day interview won’t cut it. We won’t hear the call for the noise of our sobbing. The client, too, isn’t going to see you at 10.00 am when you haven’t actually confirmed till too late. By the way (see what I mean? “By the way”…Never good….), texting us at midnight to CANCEL the interview? So that the client can’t do anything productive with the free hour they now have?…. Speak to the hand.
Scenario 4. You went for the interview, liked it, would like the process to continue. Tell you what…wait five days before you write a thank you note. I’M LYING. Write thank you notes immediately – that day ideally, or the next if you have other stuff planned that evening. The client is going to get worried about your sense of urgency in the job if you’re not Road Runner in the recruitment process when you’re trying to impress.
Scenario 5. Oh surely there can’t be more than four scenarios. Point is, staffing services are intermediaries between you and the client and possibly the job of your dreams.  We have a duty to you, to give you the whole unadulterated truth about the job so that you don’t find out in horrified fashion when you’ve already started – “I have to work till 10 pm EVERY Wednesday?” – and to give the client the whole story about your candidature – “she has classes that start at 6.00 for the next term, and can’t therefore stay late on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next 10 weeks, but she can come in early or work through lunch”.
We’re here to smooth out the kinks, find you good jobs and have everyone, you, your new employer and us, feel all warm and fuzzy about it. In order to do that, we need to know the facts. Just tell us – we can cope with whatever it is.
That’s it, class!

A whole new layer added to the process

It used to be there were temporary positions and permanent positions, and once in a blue moon a scaredy-custard manager would ask if he or she could please do temp-to-perm. It reduced the number of people who would consider taking the position —  as a quick rule of thumb you should NEVER leave a permanent job for a temp-to-perm. There’d have to be a REALLY good reason to risk it, like you’re independently wealthy and don’t need the regular paychecks coming in. So it wasn’t used as an employment tool too regularly.
But now, in 2015, we’ve still not quite recovered from 2008/2009…. Back to 5.6% unemployment in the U.S. but most of that seems to be in New York. Managers therefore still have a bigger pool to fish in for good unemployed candidates; they may be afraid of their own jobs if they make a hiring mistake; the budgets aren’t assigned as speedily as they once were; managers are able to flip flop what passes for their minds and get away with it….and so on… In other words, they can get away with temp-to-perm more frequently than they used to. Because, point is, there are far more temp-to-perm positions out there than there used to be pre-2009. For some of them it’s just for 1 – 3 months and that does indeed give the company, AND THE CANDIDATE, an extra safety net to figure out if it’s working. Let’s assume, shall we, that the company doesn’t intend to keep you temping forever, under the pretense of one-day-it’ll-go-perm, so they don’t have to pay healthcare or other benefits (Merit doesn’t have clients like that, I am delighted to tell you).  
What’s a candidate to do to get them to put you on the permanent payroll?  The quick answer is “Treat it like a permanent job”.  I mean, I could end the blog here. Let’s soldier on, though, with the I-can’t-believe-they-did-that examples of candidates who’ve blown it.
The main biggie is to give the job your commitment and NOT be looking for other jobs while you’re temp-to-perming. The chances of your eventually being found out are pretty good; how often can you have family emergencies, colds, doctor’s appointments without its dawning on the company you’re interviewing? (Of course, permanent employees who want to leave the company do this as well, but stop arguing with me… we’re talking about YOU).
Work hard, join in their “Let’s all have pizza for lunch” days, do the requested overtime with a big “No PROBlem” smile on your face, show initiative, learn about the company and start to learn to care about the company. And if given lots of extra responsibilities because they’ve realized you’re awesome, then the only people you can ask for a bigger hourly rate is the staffing agency. If you didn’t come through an agency, then you’re out of luck till it’s time to negotiate the permanent salary.

Don’t be asking everyone, colleagues, manager, or HR, how long it was before they made the last person permanent, no-one likes a whinger. It’s a drag. You have to live with it for a couple of months till they make you perm and the benefits kick in. Welcome to corporate New York in the 21stCentury. But remember that temp-to-perm does give YOU the chance to decide if you really want the job, and it is what you expected. If it isn’t, then you can just tell the next employer your contract came to an end, you don’t have to come up with a fuzzy, “It wasn’t a good fit” story.

Never read my last blog on how not to blow it at interview?

“How did I blow it? Let me count the ways”. It’s all about THEM, not about you. Shocking, I know, and possibly even unfair, but there ya go. The company has a position it wants to fill. “What made you apply?” “What do you have over other candidates?” It’s either HR that’s asking, in which case they’re thinking bigger picture of whether you’ll fit into the company culture, as well as their wanting to make the line manager happy that they found someone for the department. Or it’s the department interviewing in which case all they care about is filling their job with someone who can do it, doesn’t annoy everyone and will stay in the department for ages so they don’t have to replace.
So, how do you answer their general questions? With specific answers that relate to what THEY need. None of this, “I want a challenge” rubbish. Wrong for two reasons – they don’t CARE what you want and they don’t want someone who finds the job challenging i.e. difficult for the first six months. They’d rather find someone who can be productive by Monday morning coffee-break.
You want to find a position where your skills, experience and (fill in appropriate adjective depending on job) mentality will be recognized and appreciated, and where you, for your part, can learn and grow in the job. LEARN AND GROW IN THE JOB – fabulous phrase, shows that you’re not just thinking of the next year till you start looking again.
Extra answers like, “I also would like a stable company because I don’t like job-hopping” are good too. “I love the work you do as a not-for-profit, helping the underprivileged, so it would be awesome to be using my skills and experience to help a worthy cause.”
Is this buttering up the potential employer? Yup. And it’s what they want to hear.
You’re so keen to impress that you know the answer to their question that you blurt out something as quickly as possible, in fact sometimes, gosh, so enthusiastically the interviewer hasn’t even finished speaking. (Side note – happens all the time. Just say sheepishly, “Oops, sorry”). You have a good few seconds to think through what you want to say and how you want to say it. It might seem like a lifetime to you but a few seconds to the interviewer, while you’re looking at them, clearly thinking through an answer, won’t even be noticed. He or she will in fact be bright enough to know you’re thinking through how to give the best answer.
What if you don’t know the answer? W-e-l-l, it depends on the circumstances. If it’s a question about the company/company products and you don’t know because you didn’t do enough homework (I’m calling it homework. The world calls it googling, for heavens’ sakes.) then ‘fess up. “Sorry, I thought I’d done my homework but that one passed me by.” If it looks as though you did NO homework, you might as well forget that job….
If it’s something about work practices, specific skills you’ve said you have/they want, then try to be concise, don’t burble on for the sake of talking, and give an example of how you’ve done something identical, or at least vaguely similar if you haven’t in fact done what’s been talked about. The interviewer will remember the example, rather than a bland generalization about how fabby your organizational skills are.   
If a quizzical look comes over the interviewer’s face, and you think, “Oh gawd, she didn’t like my answer”, then take the bull by the horns and say, “Did that answer your question?” I did that once, and the interviewer replied, “Not really” and then went on about what he wanted, so I gave a better answer. Better that, than just have the person think, “Useless answer” and not tell you.   
Don’t EVER trash your current/former employers. Even in they are the Devil Incarnate, and your mother taught you never to lie, you just can’t be negative. It makes YOU come across as negative, and the company will be afraid you’d be criticizing THEM when it’s time to move on. So even if you’re trying to get out of the worst job in New York City, think of something positive. E.g.1, I lasted longer than the previous 8 assistants he’s had in the last 2 years, and I’m glad I did, because I learned such a lot. e.g.2, It wasn’t a job for the long haul, the company culture was not conducive to longevity,  but I wanted to learn so I lasted the x months/years and I’m so glad I did, it gave me the skills to have me marketable for your position.  
Have you any questions? What they mean by that is, ‘What questions do you have?” Because you should have one or two… Ask about what they value most in the person doing the job you want, what are the qualities the manager likes best, what the company culture is, what the manager’s management style is, where the company will be in the next 10 years. SOMETHING to show you care….  
Remember it’s about them, not about you. Worse than having no questions is asking about salary, sick pay, vacation at this stage.
All of this is, I hope, just common sense, but it’s easy when you’re nervous to open mouth and put foot in it (er, metaphorically speaking. I haven’t literally tried doing that since I was in my pram). Follow common sense and with luck, the second stage in the interview process will follow.

As ever, if there are any questions, or comments, we’re here at Merit Personnel for you.

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this blog…

If I see that phrase “time out of your busy schedule” one more time in a thank you letter to potential employers, I shall SPIT. It is such a cliché, there is no excuse for using it ever under any circumstances. Remember, this blog is called “Margaret says” and this is one of those times  when Margaret says and isn’t going to listen to any “Yes, but what if”…Please don’t ever use it. Actually, if I had ten dollars for every time I’ve read it in a thank you letter/email, I’d be sunning myself on a beach, not listening to the sounds of the OWS protesters (who have just marched past the building on this Monday morning).

Ok, that’s my harrumph grumble harrumph over. What do you say instead? There are different ways to say the same thing…I mean, it WAS good of the interviewer, who will indeed probably be very busy, to give you some time to explain the job and listen to you. So… just phrase it differently. 
“Thank you so much for meeting me”, “Thank you for your time”, “Thank you for being so generous with your time”, “Thank you for the time you to took to explain to me…”.
As for the rest of the letter – and these days, that usually means an email. With luck you’ll be back for second interview before the snail mail letter would have arrived – Less Is More. Write about what you learned in the interview. 
“I was pleased to hear that your department has a system of tracking…”, “that you’re going to expand”, “that you interface with…” and then relate that information to your own skills and experience. 
Explain what you can do for the company – you have a chance to help the department be successful by bringing your skills, experience and personality to the job. That’s going to resonate with them more than the fact that you want a challenge.
Sometimes one paragraph is enough, sometimes two. There are exceptions to this but, if you’re using a staffing service, a good counselor will talk you through it.
By the way, address the person as Mr, Ms, Dr in a thank you. Not first names. Even if they’ve been very friendly, it’s still better to be more formal in written correspondence. And for heavens’ sakes, proof your thank you letter. More than once. A company doesn’t know and love you yet; all they have to go on is your resume, how you performed at interview and your thank you note. Mistake-ridden isn’t going to help your chances.

That’s it, class!  If you do have any questions, “But what about when….” then please let me know. 

So, what are staffing services? Chopped liver?

I wrote a blog once about answering the telephone when speaking to staffing services….most people are polite, don’t get thrown when they get an unexpected call from recruitment agencies, are a credit to the parents’ parenting skills. Some, though….not so much. The same applies for candidates who come into the agency offices to register. We want to love all of you, we try to love all of you, but there are a few exceptions who make us want to lie down in a darkened room.
Why are they rude/disrespectful/lacking common courtesy? Dunno, and it doesn’t actually matter, because the chances of my getting to the bottom of their insecurities and helping them through it all are slim to nil. Perhaps though if a couple of my readers (I have decided I have readers) stop and think, “Oops, I’ve done that on occasion,” then this blog will have helped do the trick.
My colleagues and I have come to the conclusion that a small but annoying minority of candidates look on agencies as a necessary evil they have to live with to get through to the company where they want to work. Agencies are given job assignments by companies, our clients, for a reason. We’re good at it, we do the grunt work of filtering out those who are, for a whole variety of reasons, not right for the position, and we save the clients time and money having to do it themselves. We want to keep the clients as clients for years and years, and have them send us heartfelt thank you emails/telephone calls/Christmas cards. So we don’t send candidates who stand little chance of being successful in the job. And we would hardly be doing the candidates any favors either.
See how that works? Simple, really.
That means when you meet us, you’re trying to show us how you’ll interview with the client. You don’t take phone calls in the middle of our interviewing you (well, unless you’ve apologetically warned us in advance), you don’t chew gum, you don’t take out your bottled water and chug without asking first, you don’t wander off into our open-plan kitchen area to sit down to fill out the application form (yes, we have an adequate reception area), you don’t take the paper napkins without asking. I mean, puh-leeze. After you’ve interviewed with the client, you don’t contact them direct – we KNOW they give you a card sometimes. It’s instinct. They didn’t mean you to use it till you got the job. You don’t call them to ask how the process is coming along – if we haven’t told you it’s because THEY haven’t told US yet. You don’t call up to negotiate a better salary than they offered. All of these scenarios annoy the clients. I could go on.
These are not examples that happen often, thank goodness, but often enough for us to be letting you know that there’s an etiquette to working with agencies. We are the intermediaries, here to help the clients fill the jobs, of course, but also to help the candidates find the right job. We can help with the awkward questions you can’t ask early in the interview process, about vacations, operations, salary requirements, why you left your last job (“I toyed with killing him. How do I say that in a positive way?”)…and so on…..
We’re here to help – you, the client, ourselves, the economy — ok, that last one was a bit pretentious. Please remember that we’re not an annoying obstacle between you and employment. We’re an integral part of the recruitment process for many of the jobs out there.  

Network your way into a job….

If only I, Margaret, had all the clients I wanted in New York, no, not just New York, let’s make that up and down the Eastern seaboard, indeed, across the country while we’re at it. Not only having the clients with the fillable jobs, but imagine all the terrific candidates suitable for those jobs just happened to find out all about me and register with the fabulous Merit Personnel.
Alas, life is not that simple. We can help you and that’s what we’re here for. We live, breath and dream putting super people in super jobs. Occasionally, though, you have to help yourself. It’s a bit like never leaving the apartment in case you miss Ryan Gosling knocking on your apartment door…(I tried it. It didn’t work).
So…you have to cover your bases. That means making use of all the networking you can. It’s not always particularly fun, because looking for a job is the worst job of all, but it can sometimes pay off.    

So….when to start networking?….frankly as soon as you’ve stopped reading this blog. Summer can sometimes be quieter because a lot of the competition has gone on vacation. The potential employers are still hiring, though; don’t think that American business  takes July and August off. We all wish. There are fewer resumes for HR to be scanning through (you think they give every resume a 5 minute analysis? Again, we all wish), and this is therefore a good time to have your resume noticed.   

College alumni
Your college career services may still be interested in you even after you’ve graduated. One New York college I know of, Berkeley College, gives life-long career help and others presumably do, too. They also have blogs and all sorts of the latest media doo-dad websites (see next paragraph) to help, why not use them. Keep in touch with your professors and lecturers. They know other academics from other institutions and can put you in touch – it’s not helping the competition, it’s helping each other. One of those Departments might have a position…you won’t know about it though if you don’t ask.

Social networks
You’re speaking to Grandma (metaphorically) here, so there are probably really good networks I’ve never even heard of. Let’s start with the one I love. LinkedIn. They have a million subgroups – that may be a slight exaggeration – and some of them surely have to be of interest to you; marketing groups, aeronautical industry groups, loads of recruiting groups.  Join them. You don’t have necessarily to participate actively but you can read the discussions and find out what jobs are being advertised. Make sure your biographical details are up to date. If you feel humiliated that you have to change your current status to “looking for job”, get over it. You want the world to know that you’re ready for the next great opportunity. Recruiters and employers rummage through LinkedIn, that’s one of the main reasons it’s there, let them know whether you’re available or not.
Tumblr, SnapChat, Twitter, there’s a pile of these sites. I’m not on them but that just makes ME weird, it doesn’t make the sites useless. They’re not only there for showing embarrassing photographs of you when you were 17, underdressed, zitty and possibly illegally intoxicated. You can connect with in-person or Internet friends, who can tell you about job opportunities.

Attend networking events.
Some are free though some are not; that’s between you and your bank manager whether you can afford the luxury of the ones that charge. You’re there for a purpose, everyone knows this, they’re mostly there for the same thing, so there’s no need for embarrassment, none of the “I buy Playboy for the crossword puzzle” — yeah, right – trying to obfuscate (sorry, couldn’t resist. I love that word.)   You’re there to meet connections, who may directly or indirectly or very indirectly help you in your job quest.  It can be an informational event where you learn useful factoids about how to find job advertisements, how to interview — yup, I’m not the only one out there trying to help. Or it can be a meeting of potential employers turning up to give you their card in return for your resume.

Social events work as well. The main purpose is more or less to socialize but if you’re at, say, a Church social, you could be sitting next to an HR manager. I went to a summer party reception a couple of weeks ago, sat at a table to scarf down the appetizers and when I said what I did for a living, there was a LINE of people waiting to give me their cards. Ok, maybe not a line but, really, quite a few! Don’t be too aggressive at social events, though. Try building relationships, and with luck and a following wind, job leads will flow from them.

DUH…but then again, maybe not

I read, ok, if I’m being honest with myself, quickly scan through all these tedious articles on my Internet home page (not saying which one, because my colleagues use other ones, and they’re all as bad as each other, the home pages, not my colleagues), giving career advice. They all seem to have numbers in the titles, to attract your attention: 5 things to say in interview, 10 things not to say in interview, 3 tips for the perfect cover letter, 5 things not to do in the office, 2 words that’ll get you the job, 4 things not to wear at work…t-e-d-i-o-u-s.

I came across one the other day: 35 ways that can make the difference between your getting a position or losing out to someone else. 35, for heavens’ sakes. And the list didn’t even include “not being related to the owner” so that would have made it 36.

Most are total common sense which is why I headed this blog “DUH”. But you might actually find a couple of hints quite useful, so I added the “but then again, perhaps not” – if any of them have you saying to yourself (try not to speak to yourself in public. People give you the strangestlooks), “Never thought of that. Good point”, then it was worth reading the blog.

Here’s my list of Stuff to Avoid.

1) Being late….better an hour early than 5 minutes late. If you are late, because the 6 and G trains were doing their usual, look, sound and be grovellingly apologetic.

2) Messy application form. You can’t be bothered writing neatly for them? What does that forebode for your work standards should you join them?

3) Not looking neat and tidy. It’s 100 degrees (Fahrenheit, but frankly, it might as well be Celsius) as I write this, so it’s impossible to look as fabby as you would in cooler weather. No, I’m talking chipped nail polish, dirty fingernails, messy hair, dirty shoes, stain on your tie.

4) Criticizing previous or current employer. Big no-no, that one. The interviewing company will be afraid you’ll criticize them one day. Of course, if you’re leaving because your boss is Satan’s handmaid, you’ll have to have some fancy linguistic footwork to explain yourself “I’ve learned a lot, and I’m glad I’ve done it, but the environment is not really one for the long haul. My two years here beats everyone’s else’s stint by 18 months”. However, overt criticism, no matter how appallingly true it might be (“My boss’s family have told me they’re arranging an intervention”) is not appropriate in an interview.

5) Being too casual in your speech. You have to sound natural, and if you’re worried about impressing with your vocabulary and diction, you’ll sound awfully stilted. The world is a lot more casual these days but potential employers will worry what you will be like on the job if you’re just too cazh in the interview. Face jewellery, major tattoos showing, swearing, using vulgar expressions (“My last job sucked”….aaaagh. Don’t bother googling, take my word for it, DON’T SAY IT). If you can’t show some respect for authority – and that’s rather what the interviewers are at this stage – they’ll be worried you’ll be Trouble on the job. So tone it down.

6) Apparent lack of interest/enthusiasm in the job and the interview process. You’re shy, you’ve never been talkative, you prefer computer games to having friends….all of that is fine, but try to nod appreciatively, give little smiles, look the interviewer in the eye, otherwise she/he will think you’re odd or bored or just generally unsuitable for employment.  

7) Don’t ask about advancement in the company at interview stage. You haven’t got the job yet, the job they’re desperately trying to fill, and already you’re asking about moving on? Learning more and more about the actual job – that’s more than acceptable. Wanting promotion already?…not so much

8) Have your cell phone turned off. If you forget and it rings, apologize. If it’s got an annoying ring that won’t stop, you’ll have to take it out to switch it off. Resist the temptation to have a quick look to see who was calling.

9) Indicating that you are shopping around for jobs. The job that the company wants filled is THAT one, and they want someone with commitment and enthusiasm for it, not someone who is looking for the best offer. Clearly, the company will know that your dance card may be quite full, but if they ask if you have anything else on the go, try to be subtle without telling big fibs. “I have a couple of other opportunities that I’m pursuing because I need to work, but this is the one that gets me excited”.     

10) Being vague in your answers, coming out with generalizations. Always give examples. I have mentioned this in some of the other blog articles and I mention it every time I prep a candidate for interview, so I won’t bang on about it here. Well, actually, maybe I will. “I have great organizational skills”….pause while the interviewer marvels at how organized you are…..nope, sorry, that’s not going to work. Everyone I have ever met says, “I have great organizational skills”.  Prove it to the interviewer with a couple of examples. No-one has ever said, “I’m a mess. It’s a wonder I can dress myself in the mornings”.

11)  Lack of common courtesy. Be nice to the receptionist. Thank the interviewer for his/her time at the end of the interview. Write a thank you note that relates to the specific interview and didn’t come verbatim out of a “Thank You Notes for Dummies” internet article.   

    The secret to landing a job interview or indeed job offer

    There are all these articles out there on the Internet, or even worse as actual books you have to BUY, telling you about “secret” things that apparently resume-reviewers want to see on resumes and cover letters. There are “secret” things you must remember to say, or then again, not say in interviews. Let’s not forget the “secret” things you have to mention in thank you letters.
    I haven’t quite figured out why consultants write like that. Is it to turn common-sense advice on how to find a job into  a whole mystique, so that you feel you HAVE to read their stuff, or use them to help you, because YOU don’t have the secret keys to the Kingdom of Job Search. They’ve all been looking at too many Harry Potter movies.
    The only secret is that there aren’t any secrets.

    There are various ways to write resumes, but all of them involve clarity and conciseness. Previous blogs give advice on what recruiters want to see and the format they usually prefer e.g. this is 2013, so bullet points, please, not 1985 stream of consciousness prose. They want it on one or two pages, they want to see relevant experience, any education, skills and achievements. They want it error-free: “Slef-motivated” will not impress.

    Cover letters
    One page is enough and don’t have it crammed full of stuff. Try to tailor it to the specific position – your resume will probably not be THAT specific to the position, so highlight your achievements as they relate to the advertised job.

    Thank you letters
    Try to sound sincere (George Burns, old comedian, used to say, “Once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made”), that you want THAT particular job. You can do that by showing you listened during the interview to what they said the job was about and what they were looking for. Writing something that was more or less copied from the Internet shows a casual attitude that won’t get you to the next stage in the interview process. Again, I have other notes in previous blog articles about cover letters.

    Unless your parents own the company, dressing inappropriately, dropping the f-bomb, not having done your homework on the position and the company, these are pretty obvious pitfalls. Although, maybe not that obvious if you think flip-flops constitute Interview Uniform.

    Leaving the recruiter and company personnel feeling all warm and fuzzy about you.
    Looking interested, listening to what they say, giving sensible answers that highlight your skills, education, experience and suitable personality –  those are the qualities that will get you the position, and will make the company feel that you can contribute.

    See? None of that sounds secretive to me. More like common sense, actually. Next time you see an Internet article about how, magically, you can unlock the key to Job Jackpot, roll your eyes and hit delete.
    I’m not saying that you should then dive to the Margaret Says So blog on the Merit website, but I shan’t be stopping you if you do.

    I’m depressed…..Motivate me…..

    I have always said that the worst job in the world is looking for a job. I mean, if you pin me against the wall and tell me there are actually worse, then yes, I guess I’m exaggerating. Working down a salt mine in a country with deficient safety standards is doubtless quite a bit worse. The point is, looking for a job IS a job. There’s no money coming in – in fact, it costs you to dress up and travel in for interviews – and you don’t necessarily get the satisfaction of doing good work the way you would if you were volunteering for a non-profit.
    It’s still a job though. You have to take it seriously, you have to do research, you have to be prepared for people not to appreciate your worth, you have to deal with people to whom you wouldn’t give house room and who will never earn their way on to your Christmas card list – just like a job, in fact.

    What’s a soul to do when it all gets overwhelming, you don’t want to get out of bed and you just want to hang around the apartment drinking hot coffee and eating British chocolate bars? (oh, hang on, I drink hot coffee and eat British chocolate bars as part of being happy….I guess that’s for another blog then, on the weirdness of my psyche).

    First thing to remember is that you’re not alone. There are those out there who want to help. Some are your family and friends and they may possibly be able to give practical help. If they can, great. If they just offer non-specific love and positive vibes, then accept it appreciatively. In these economic times, better than they were two years ago, still pretty gruesome compared to 2007, the chances of your knowing others in the same unemployed situation, or employed-but-miserable-and-can’t-find-an alternative job, are high. That makes more competition out there, I suppose, but it also means that the world is more sympathetic to you than they would have been a few years ago. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT, so don’t be thinking IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM that you’re inferior to anyone else who’s employed. “I’m too old, I don’t have a degree, I don’t have pivot tables — don’t even know what the stupid things are — I’m not gorgeous looking….” We’re all awesome in our own way, and if you don’t like yourself, then chances are no-one else will.

    So….your family are great, your cat loves you, but you can’t find a job, despite hours a day looking on the Internet, and you decide to take yourself off to a staffing service.  We are here to help. We tell you about the types of jobs we get, the specific jobs we have at that moment, and how you can ace the interview process to land one of them.
    We p-o-s-s-i-b-l-y have to tell you stuff you don’t hugely want to hear –
    “Your resume needs an overhaul. Prose is so 1990s, we’re using bullet points now”.
    “Your computer skills are worse than mine, which I didn’t think was possible. Let me e-mail the free tutorials. Practice, practice, practice”.
    “I refuse to allow you in an interview to be that negative about your last boss, no matter how big a jerk he is. The company will be afraid you’ll be critical of them one day”.
    “You want a job that’s no more than five blocks from Grand Central? Don’t you think you’re being just a tiny bit inflexible?”
    And so on….

    You should leave a meeting with a staffing service feeling optimistic that they might find you the sort of job you’ve been looking for. They should make you feel good about yourself, about your skills, experience and employability.

    How to help yourself? Let the world know you’re looking….LinkedIn, any kind of networking support groups in your neighborhood, spending some but not too much time each day trawling the Internet for jobs, networking your heart out going for contact interviews with as many people as you can think of, social media (I mean, FaceBook can’t JUST be for letting the world see how drunk you got at your sister’s 21st, can it?).

    Give yourself breaks  — 40 hours a week looking for a job will wear you down a lot sooner than you think. Give yourself little treats — in my case, hot coffee and a British KitKat (having one right now, actually) – but whatever is available, even if you have no money – playing with the neighbor’s dog? Reading about Kim Kardashian? NOT reading about Kim Kardashian?….Go to church, the park, whatever it takes to keep your spirits up. There are lots of jobs out there and a future employer who hasn’t yet realized how good you’re going to be for the company.

    Why Merit? In fact, why staffing services at all?

    Scenario 1: I’m intelligent – if you don’t believe me, just ask my mother. I have great skills, good experience. I’m a team player. Why, then, would I need a staffing service to help me find a job?
    Scenario 2: I’m intelligent – see Scenario 1…. I have great skills, good experience. I’m a team player. WHY CAN’T I FIND A JOB?
    Scenario 3: I went to a staffing service once, the Scuzz Bucket Employment Agency.  They were awful, lied to me and then stopped returning my calls. Why would I risk going to another? Basically, the answer to that one is because there are a lot of honest, caring recruiters out there. Don’t give up because you met a horrid one. Did you give up dating because you once went out with a jerk?
    Staffing agencies have been around forever as a means to help people find jobs. Some are specialized (sales jobs), some are reallyspecialized (paralegals in the insurance industry), some just have permanent positions (“Sorry, don’t have the money to bank roll you weekly, dear”), some only have temporary assignments (“What do you mean, they want you to go perm? I’ll lose my weekly profit from you.”). Some, like, oh, I don’t know, MERIT, can help with finding permanent, temporary and temp-to-perm positions.
    The one-stop shop agencies are your best bet, of course, because they can help with your changing situation e.g. you want to temp till you finish college, then get a permanent job. Also they have a better selection of jobs, because in these tough economic times some of the very best jobs are temp-to-perm situations. You may have a nice relationship with a counselor from one of the others, so don’t be losing touch with that person. You just may have to have two or three agencies in your database.
    Employment services often get jobs that are not advertised elsewhere. Companies do indeed advertise on Internet job sites, or on their own websites, but they have to wade their way through a huge pile of irrelevant resumes e.g. 1 You’re an unemployed petrol pump attendant from Kansas with no financial experience, and yet you think you can be an be an internal wholesaler. E.g.2 Maybe you think that, even though you’re not right for the advertised job, the recruiter will have an Aha moment, and think, “Perfect for that other position I have” but it rarely/never works that way. Some companies don’t have the time or resources to search hundreds of resumes per job, so they hand it out to an agency. Remember, too, that agencies have a pool of good candidates collected over the months/years/decades. The company will very probably not have such a database, so they come to us. You want to be one of the people in our database….
    We know our clients. We know their little ways. We know what they’re looking for and can steer you towards and maybe away from them e.g. We know you can’t do heavy overtime. We’re not going to send you to a client where leaving past 10pm is the norm. e.g. They say a 4 year degree is essential, a deal breaker, and you’re 12 credits short but we know they’ll love you and not mind those missing 12 credits. This is where I use my, “Oh, shut up and see her” speech. Because the clients trust my judgment, they agree.
    Agencies have all seen millions of resumes — ok, I may have exaggerated a smidge there — and know that yours could do with a bit of improving/a total revamp. They can help. Sometimes, alas, the non-Merit advice is rubbish (One page or two? HK – Hoo Kares? Just have it read clearly…) but you won’t know how to have the very best resume that you can have till you register with us. Oh well, there ya go. Back to my point….agencies can help with resumes. If you’ve been given severance after 15 years, you may not have had to re-do your resume in years, and may not know how the landscape has changed …fabulous though you might be, you will probably still need some guidance.
    You get an interview with a client (client to the agency, potential employer to you). We can prep you such that not only do you not stick foot in mouth, but you shine more than the competition. For lots of examples, read my other blogs. We tell you how not to look deer-in-the-headlights with the difficult questions, what’s an appropriate interview dress code for the particular client.
    Thank you letters. Agencies can help. I have one blog that starts “Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to read this blog”. Read it! Thank you letters are supposed to come from you, and your personalized, genuine feelings and thoughts about the interview, not from some half-baked, generalized stuff you read on the Internet.    
    Second interviews. Woo hoo, you made it over several of the hurdles and now you get to meet Mr Big. We know what makes him or her tick. E.g. You don’t want to be burbling on with a “Let me tell you about myself” to some Silent Genius Senior Managing Director who can’t be bothered with chatterboxes.
    You’re getting offered the job. Salary? We can help you negotiate something that’s fair to you and doesn’t make the client feel you’ve been unreasonable or greedy.
    Background check. We can even help there too. Be upfront. You were arrested when you were in college for running naked through the Main Street one Saturday night – first and last time drinking Long Island Iced Teas, that’s for sure. How can you stop your one minor(ish) but dramatic indiscretion blighting your entire career? A good agency will help you through it.
    See what I mean? These are just some of the ways that coming to an agency can improve your employment chances, helping you find, nail and keep a job where you’ll happy.