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Handling a Recruiter’s Unexpected Cold Call While Maintaining a Positive Relationship

 

Handling a Recruiter's Unexpected Cold Call While Maintaining a Positive Relationship

IT contractors who have been in the community for long enough know that cold calls from tech recruiters are inevitable. Sometimes you welcome them, other times you find them a nuisance, but one thing you’ve learned is that they’re not going away.

Naturally, we prefer that you embrace these calls. Recruiters dream of calling a contractor who answers the phone on the first ring, drops everything to listen intently about the opportunity, provides all the information required and gratefully thanks them before hanging up and emailing an updated resume right away. Ha! We also understand the reality that you’re a busy professional receiving calls from other agencies too and you simply don’t have time to humour us all.

Great recruiters understand that they need to build respectful relationships with IT contractors if they want to do business with them in the future. Similarly, smart contractors are aware that it’s wise to build relationships with recruiters today if you want to increase your chances of getting a gig tomorrow.

Why Are Recruiters Cold Calling You?

When a recruiter contacts you out of the blue, they might have a specific job opportunity and are wondering if you’re interested or they may have some intelligence that a company or several companies will soon be looking for contractors with your unique skillset. In any case, they are not calling to offer you a job on the spot, but rather want to understand your current status and if you’re open to opportunities.

The Best Way to Handle a Recruiter’s Cold Call

If you pick up the phone and find a recruiter on the other end, the first thing is to remain polite, even if you’d rather not hear from them. Remember, it’s always important to build that relationship… plus they’re human and deserve respect. If you don’t have time but are interested, ask to reschedule at a better time. If you’re not interested at all, let them know that quickly as well, to save everyone some time.

When you have a few minutes and know you’ll be looking for a contract in the coming months, we recommend taking the time to listen to what the recruiter is asking about. A respectful recruiter will keep it brief and transparent. A few questions you should be prepared to answer include:

  • When are you available to start your next contract?
  • What industries and/or disciplines do you prefer?
  • What’s your current rate range?
  • What area(s) of the city do you prefer to work in?

If You Choose to Ignore That Call

Every recruiter would love it if you answered the phone but we understand if you don’t. Especially In today’s world, an unfamiliar number is usually somebody trying to sell you something or a computer notifying you that you’re under arrest. That said, the recruiter is almost definitely going to leave a voicemail and/or follow-up with an email. Do your best to respond promptly. Like you would on the call, briefly let them know your interests and availability for your next contract. Sending an updated resume is always a nice touch. Or, if you’re happy where you are with no intentions to leave, be open about that as well.

Every relationship has micro-opportunities that allow you influence it in a positive or negative way. A simple 3-minute phone call can make a huge difference in whether or not you hear from a recruiter down the road.

Build a Stellar Client Relationship by Managing Realistic Expectations

Build a Stellar Client Relationship by Managing Realistic Expectations

A reality IT recruiters face is that some gigs are going to go wrong. The contractor and client get off to a good start, and then a few months in, we get a call that things aren’t working out. There are a number of reasons IT contracts crash and burn — personalities, lack of skills, poor leadership — but many times, we learn that the situation could have been avoided if more clear expectations had been set up front. Obviously, the contract between all parties defines the project and deliverables, but a good working relationship has to be built on more than is typically written in a contract.

Failing to define realistic expectations with your client, your team, or anybody involved with an IT contract can lead to damaged relationships and unnecessary conflict. As the project progresses, all parties may make assumptions that drift further and further apart. Suddenly, when one person thinks everything is running smoothly, another is disappointed and angry at the status.

A standard contract will define the final deliverables, expected hours to be worked, location, duration and rate. But there are always other smaller expectations to be discussed upfront with your client. For example, you might ask your client for more details about the final deliverables, their own goals for the project, and milestones they would like to see met. It’s also the time to be upfront about your own limitations to avoid and scope creep. For example, which days you are unable to work and which skills you do not have (and never claimed to have).

Expectations are not limited to complete projects and should be set on a micro level as well. One example is meetings. These are frequently referred to as a waste of time because proper expectations were not set. If everybody attending is aware of the goals, desired outcome, expected duration and who will be in attendance, it not only helps them prepare, but you know if the meeting was successful at the end. When it’s a waste of time, everybody will understand why and can work to improve it.

How Can You Set Realistic Expectations with Your Client?

The earlier you can set expectations to ensure everyone is working towards the same, common goal, the more efficient the project will be. Here are a few tips to get you on your way:

  • Don’t assume anything. Put everything on the table and ensure you both clearly understand each other’s expectations, desired outcomes and definitions of success. Understand what’s a must-have and what’s nice-to-have.
  • Eliminate the fluff. We’ve posted many times about realistic SMART goals and expectations should follow the same guidelines.
  • Build your communication skills. It is impossible to understand expectations if you cannot communicate your own. You also have no control over other people’s communication abilities, so yours need to make up for their shortfalls.
  • Confirm it all in writing. Not everything has to be in a formal contract, but a follow-up email summarizing the agreed expectations can be invaluable.
  • Provide updates. Things are going to go wrong and off-track, and that’s ok. But if expectations were never adjusted, there is going to be disappointment when reality is revealed.

What expectations do you set with your clients before beginning a project? What about with your recruiter? Are there any discussions you like to have upfront before moving forward on an application? Please share your opinion in the comments below.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: How Many Languages Do You Speak?

Canada has two official languages: French and English. Unofficially, there are more than 200 languages spoken nation-wide and the 2016 Canadian Census found that 17.5% of the population spoke at least two languages at home. That’s a lot of diversity!

Speaking multiple languages can help you in your job search as it simplifies communication and building relationships with more people. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we decided to get a grasp on our readership and understand how many languages you can speak. The results have been fascinating with roughly 75% of respondents being able to speak more than one language and a few who can even speak 5 of more!

Quick Poll Results - How many languages do you speak?

Contractor Quick Poll: Where do you prefer to be working?

It’s now been about two months since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Canadian economy to shift in a way we’ve never seen before. While some companies had to shut down projects and cut contracts almost immediately, others saw the opposite effect where demand for IT talent couldn’t be greater. Across all organizations, nearly all staff and contractors have been asked to work from home and that has been a major change for many of us.

Now, we’re weeks into the pandemic and slowly starting to see the economy open up. While few offices are bringing their teams back, we are at a point where we can at least start talking about it. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re curious to know what you think of working from home, especially after being forced to do so for so long.

Tech Wins at Companies Across Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tech Wins at Companies Across Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The news is full of depressing stories, political controversy and plenty of fear. Certainly, these are tough times and many people around the world are suffering in ways nobody would have predicted a mere few months ago. Still, there are good stories around the world, coming in all shapes and forms.

Companies are moving at a fast pace to keep up and adapt. Yes, there have been layoffs and the worst may still be ahead in some organizations, but when we look deeper, there are many encouraging, feel-good stories coming from this crisis.

Here at Eagle, we had a huge win within our back-office team. Most of the company has worked in a predominately electronic environment for many years with the ability to work virtually anywhere and an existing work-at-home program made the move from office to home seamless.  However, our Accounting Team still had a few processes that depended on paper, creating a reliance to work in a centralized location. This pandemic has been an opportunity to completely transition from paper. Impressively, the team built and implemented new processes in a matter of days! Not only does this result in a positive environmental impact, but the morale boost will be long-term. Even after offices open up, this team will now have the option to work-from-home, impacting their work/life balance in a positive way.

Eagle’s story is just one, minor example of using technology to make improvements in the wake of a crisis. Eagle’s founder, Kevin Dee, set out to find more examples and published a series of LinkedIn Posts highlighting tech wins across Canada. Here are examples from three very different Canadian organizations who all used technology to overcome unique, challenging situations:

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

It’s unusual to see the CRA in a good news story, but credit is certainly due given what these public servants pulled off for the country. When Justin Trudeau announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in mid-March, the news brought relief to millions of Canadians, but stress to the employees at CRA. There was no existing system to manage the volumes and speed at which this system needed to deliver.

Still, the CRA team was able to deliver a system in three weeks that not only processed the volume of applicants in a timely manner but also introduced direct deposit payments to banks, which the CRA had not done previously, other than as a pilot. In the end, this helped millions of Canadians and gave the government a high-profile story about a successful, fast implementation.

TD Bank

TD Bank also successfully used technology in two areas to lead the way through the COVID-19 crisis. The first comes from their Trader Group, which was housed on a massive floor of a high rise building, a situation screaming of health risks at the onset of the pandemic.

Trading was soaring as the markets responded to the pandemic so work had to continue. Most companies were sending their people home, or at least splitting teams into smaller groups, and TD Bank knew that they needed to act quickly and effectively in order to compete. They assessed all of the risks and obstacles of suddenly sending their teams home, including security, hardware options, process issues and communication issues. In the end, they managed to pull off the impossible and got 300 of 357 traders home, replicating a high-tech trading floor in hundreds of residential dining rooms and spare bedrooms.

The bank also pulled off a similar feat with its 15 call centres located across North America, employing 9000 people. They moved 95% of those people to a home office and kept the call center operations going.  The logistics involved were huge, but the bank was able to overcome all of them.

In both of these examples, TD Bank transformed the way they do business, which is rare in such a traditional industry. Similar to Eagle’s story, both their Trader Group and call centres have the option to work remotely long after this crisis is over, boosting employee morale and saving them real estate costs.

TC Energy

The final example comes from the Oil & Gas sector in Calgary and demonstrates how proper planning pays off. For the past couple years, TC Energy, which has approximately 8,000 employees – 50% of whom are in Calgary, has been working on a digital transformation project. The project embraced big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence while migrating systems to the cloud.

Because of this preparation and embracing the latest technologies, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, TC Energy was successful at moving to a work-from-home environment in just one weekend. Furthermore, their ability to hire and onboard staff has barely been affected, a major stumbling blocks for many large companies.

Adversity has potential to bring out the best in individuals and companies alike and these examples are a handful of the stories we can find all around us. As we work through tough times, continue looking for positive stories and recognizing those who are overcoming hurdles every day. It’s this attitude that will help you come out stronger on the other side.

Get More Job Opportunities by Keeping Recruiters Up to Date on These 5 Things

If the information about you in a recruiter's database is wrong or outdated, then expect to get calls for jobs that don't match what you want!

As an IT contractor, you probably have relationships with dozens of technology recruiters. Those recruiters keep you in a database, filled with thousands of other qualified contractors. While a couple might always keep you top-of-mind, the reality is that unless you have an extremely niche, in-demand skill set with incredible results, you’re only going to get a call if you match their search criteria. If the information about you in their database is wrong or outdated, then expect to get calls for jobs that don’t match what you want! Therefore, it’s in your best interest to keep recruiters up to date on your job status and career.

One solution is to create a distribution list of your favourite recruiters. If there’s a change to any of the following, send out an email notifying them of the update. Or, visit the staffing agency’s self-serve portal (if available) to update the information as soon as you have it.

New Skills and Certifications

You do not need to send an update saying “I gained another year of experience as a Systems Analyst” but if you learn a brand-new skill or earned a certification that is nowhere to be seen on your existing resume, your recruiter should know! It’s smart to send an entirely new resume with updates like this because they will need to pass that along to potential clients.

Contact Information

Recruiters need to get a hold of you! If there is a change to your email address or preferred phone number, let everyone know as soon as possible. Depending on how your recruiter’s database is set-up, once your number or email address is deemed “unreachable”, your resume may end up in a black hole forever. While it’s less urgent when you move a few blocks, relocating to a new city is important for your recruiter to know as well.

Date Available

Smart recruiters keep on top of contractors’ availability because they want to send you relevant job opportunities when you’re actually looking. If you haven’t already, tell all of your favourite recruiters when your current contract ends. Do that right now. Remember if a contract is extended or ends early, update them about that too.

Interest in Permanent Job Opportunities

Recruiters safely assume that an independent contractor has chosen this style of work as their career choice and that they are not interested in hearing about full-time, permanent job openings. If you’re in the minority and you’re a contractor who would like to hear about permanent jobs as well, make a point of telling your recruiter. Otherwise, you will only hear about a portion of the job opportunities that are out there.

Other Openings at Your Client

We hinted at the beginning of this post that being top-of-mind to a recruiter is your best chance of hearing about new jobs, and helping them out every now and then is the best way to get there. When you hear about upcoming projects or planned hiring sprees at a client, pass this lead onto your favourite recruiters. IT contractors who help recruiters win new business become unforgettable to those recruiters and their entire recruitment agency.

There is no need to call recruiters every month for a small chat or to send small resume updates when you’re on a contract for two more years. But if you remember to keep recruiters updated on just these few areas, you might be surprised at the number of relevant opportunities you start to receive!

Building Self-Awareness Will Drastically Improve Your IT Career

Building Self-Awareness Will Drastically Improve Your IT Career

We published a post last October explaining how strengthening your emotional intelligence can make you a better IT contractor. Hand-in-hand with emotional intelligence is self-awareness. According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), there are two categories of self-awareness: internal self-awareness is how we see ourselves, and external self-awareness which refers to our understanding of how other people see us. Building both of them will have extreme benefits for an IT contractor in your job search, during job interviews, while working on contracts, as well as throughout life in general.

Self-Awareness in Your Job Search

Being self-aware means that you genuinely understand your strengths and weaknesses, what you excel at and when you tend to drag your feet. When we search for jobs, it’s tempting to apply for opportunities that will have the most pay, the most prestige and the most convenience. Self-awareness lets you take a step back to evaluate the job description and know if you truly are qualified for the job. From there, you can create a plan to develop the skills that will let you achieve your career goals. When you recognize shortfalls but still want to apply to an IT contract, a good sense of self-awareness will give you the confidence to clearly explain the areas where you lack experience, your plan to develop those skills, as well as what you bring to the table to make up for the shortfall.

Self-Awareness in a Job Interview

More and more, recruiters and hiring managers are structuring an interview to look beyond technical skills, including to understand an applicant’s self-awareness. Demonstrate your self-awareness in how you answer questions and speak genuinely about yourself. Explain your decision-making process, how your emotions have influenced decisions, and how you overcome biases that you identified. When providing examples of past work, recognize the challenges you’ve run into, provide honest details on how other people perceived you, and be accountable for your actions and outcomes. Most interviewers will assume that the IT contractor who is the hero of every project and who does no wrong is really just lacking self-awareness.

Self-Awareness on the Job

Why do clients want to work with technologists with high self-awareness? Because self-awareness has been proven time and again to improve performance, especially if you’re going to be leading a team. In fact, a 2010 study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations discovered that high self-awareness often correlates with leadership success.

Knowing how others see you and how your emotions affect them helps you develop relationships with all levels of colleagues. Furthermore, when you know your weaknesses, you have an easier time delegating work to those who can do better. Finally, being known as someone with high self-awareness at work will help you with future opportunities. As noted earlier, clients and recruiters are looking for this trait more frequently, so when they call past clients for references, it will serve you well if they can speak to your self-awareness.

Self-Awareness to Improve Your Life

Those with high self-awareness are known to have increased soft skills that can benefit your job search, interviews, on-the-job performance, and life in general. For example, it can be argued that poor time management is the result of not being aware of how you spend your time in the first place. Taking a step back to breakdown your day helps you realize where you could have fit-in more productive behaviours. As well, self-awareness provides clarity in what you can and can’t control, and accept when it’s time to move forward rather than waste time on uncontrollable challenges.

Developing Self-Awareness

People spend years building self-awareness and along this journey there is always the opportunity to continually improve. There are a number of books available to help you, but a few quick tips include:

  • Ask for Feedback: It’s a difficult task, but getting feedback from people you trust and asking them to describe how they see you is a good exercise in getting to know yourself. Remember to ask people in all areas of your life and try not to take the feedback personally.
  • Journal: Reflect on your day, what went well and what you could have handled differently. This conversation with your thoughts will help you understand what strategies do and don’t work and will teach you to become more present.
  • Try a Personality Test: There are a plethora out there for you to try, but take them for what they are. A Facebook quiz or magazine article isn’t going to be scientifically accurate. Humans are also known for subconsciously skewing the results of these tests so they come out how we want them to.
  • Meditation: This in-depth exercise is a helpful way to build mindfulness. If you’re unsure where to start, search for guided meditation courses in your area. Eventually, you’ll learn to build your own routines that you can do at home.

We can all think of people we’ve worked with in the past who had absolutely no self-awareness and a few special people who excelled at it. What are you doing to improve yours?

You Need to Listen to Your Recruiter

You Need to Listen to Your Recruiter

No, we are not implying that recruiters are always right and you should always do what they say. Instead, we’re stressing how important it is to actively listen to your recruiter, not just hear what they’re saying.

Exemplary listening skills take practice to perfect and when you excel at it, you’ll find more success and build better relationships. If we examine just the interactions you have with recruiters through your IT contracting career, active listening can make a massive difference. For example:

  • When you truly hear and understand the description of a job and the environment, you know that the job will be right (or wrong) for you.
  • When you listen carefully to a recruiter telling you about a client project, you have a better interview with the client because you understand their situation.
  • When you understand everybody’s concerns, situations and expectations, you increase your bargaining power when negotiating a rate.
  • When you listen properly during a heated situation, you appear more polite and professional, plus you improve the chances of a positive resolution.

When you’re a good listener, you build better relationships and have an easier time winning contracts. It’s that simple!

Business Insider recently put together a list of 7 things great listeners do that set them apart and it’s a perfect summary of simple steps you can take to improve your job search and relationship with a recruiter.

  1. They Self Regulate: Regardless of triggered emotions, great listeners moderate their strong reactions and encourage the other person to keep talking. When a recruiter is giving you feedback — maybe they’ve reviewed your resume or they’re passing on performance feedback from the client — your instincts might be to defend your position. Instead, bite your tongue and hear them out so you can learn and improve.
  2. They Treat All Perspectives as Valid: Certainly, there are undisputable facts in life, but a person’s perception based on their experience and point-of-view is never wrong. Understanding perspective is valuable when resolving any conflict, as well as negotiating rate. While you may not agree with your recruiter’s arguments or justifications, knowing what brought them to their stance will make it much easier to find common ground and a win-win solution.
  3. They Check for Understanding: This is key when learning about an opportunity. You’d hate to go through the application process only to realize close to the end that this job isn’t for you. Or even worse, show up on your first day of the contract only to learn that there was a miscommunication and the gig is not what you thought it was. If there is any doubt, restate what the recruiter just told you, but in your own words. They can then clear-up any misunderstanding.
  4. They Ask Clarifying Questions: Assumptions are dangerous. Instead of shrugging your shoulders and assuming you understand, be curious and follow-up with more questions. Which specific location is the work being done? How long will it be before you get an answer from the client? What exactly does the client environment look like? What requirement are you missing that prevents the rate from going any higher?
  5. They Listen with Their Eyes as Well as Their Ears: Watch your recruiter during an interview to gauge their reactions to your responses. They might not verbally tell you that your response lacked detail, but facial expressions or tone of voice will indicate that something’s missing. Use that opportunity to ask if they need clarification and improve your answer.
  6. They Make Sure Everyone is Heard: When Business Insider raised this point, it was to point out the quiet people in a meeting whose voices aren’t being heard. This advice is also relevant for the two-person relationship between you and your recruiter. Give them time to speak in all situations — when you’re discussing opportunities, client issues, or just getting to know each other. Be aware if you tend to be overbearing in conversation, and consciously stop to listen.
  7. They Note What’s Not Said: Intentionally or accidentally, when a recruiter leaves out pertinent information, it leads to misunderstandings that can drastically affect your career. Note when a job description lacks details that are typically included in other postings. Recognize what’s being glossed over too quickly when the recruiter presents an opportunity. Then ask about it and ensure the answer is what you need it to be.

There is no arguing that listening and communication requires two people but unfortunately, you only have control over yourself. You can help your recruiter improve their listening by being patient and thorough with their follow-up questions, being cognizant of your body language and tone of voice, and slowing down to make it as easy as possible for them to hear what you’re saying.

Can you be a better listener? The answer for everyone is almost definitely “Yes”, we just need to identify where to start.

Quick Poll Results: Your Go-To Voice Assistant

Do you use a voice assistant like Google, Siri or Alexa? We learned in last month’s Contractor Quick Poll that a proportion of our readers aren’t using voice-activated devices; however, a good chunk do enjoy the benefits of solving quick problems, getting directions and just having fun with the computer on their phone or home assistant.

To go one step further, we asked our readers about their favourite assistant. Between Amazon, Apple and Google, there’s some stiff competition. While some people said they have no preference, there are some obvious preferences for Google and Alexa.

Contractor Quick Poll Results - Who's Your Favourite Voice Assistant?

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

You love your spouse. We know you do. But how many people have ever worked from home with their spouse more than they have in the past few weeks? Twitter has exploded with comical one-liners of people sharing their experiences and they’ve been fun to read. But there are real challenges that families are experiencing. Dealing with them up-front is what’s going to ensure you can remain productive for your client while maintaining a happy household. And, given you’re probably confined to the home for a little while, that happiness should be a high priority. Here are a few tips we compiled to help you out:

  1. Try and work in separate spaces. Not everybody’s home can accommodate this, but if you can work in a separate room from your spouse, it will help you focus, minimize distractions, and prevent you from stepping on each other’s toes. Just make sure it’s a productive office (Hint: bedrooms tend to be a bad idea)

  2. They are not your colleagues. As tempting as it is, refrain from using your spouse to brainstorm work-related ideas or rant about office politics. This is distracting to them and brings them into problems that they really do not need.

  3. Still respect them like your colleagues. If you work in an open-office, then you know how annoying it is when somebody takes phone calls too loudly, listens to music without headphones, or starts talking to you while you’re in the middle of working on something that requires focus. Don’t be that person at home.

  4. Accept and embrace the inevitable distractions. It’s alright to want to socialize with your significant other through the day, so set some ground rules. Decide on specific times when you will take a break together and have signals when distractions are or aren’t alright. For example, a closed door might mean you cannot be disturbed or working at the dining room table instead of the office could mean some chitchat is alright.

  5. Take a few minutes each morning to discuss. Evaluate the prior day and review today’s schedule. Did anything happen yesterday that prevented you from being productive? Do you have an extra busy day today or are things a bit more relaxed? Discuss these topics each morning before going on your separate ways.

If you haven’t already, take a minute to acknowledge the challenges that you might face with both of you working from home and solve them up-front. Build your routines and plans that work for you. How are you surviving working from home with others around?