Talent Development Centre

All posts by Frances McCart

Gaps Between IT Gigs on Your Resume

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

How to Overcome Them and Land Your Next Contract or Job

Gaps in Employment - How to Overcome Them and Land Your Next Contract or JobOne of the most common questions I get asked by contractors is how to explain gaps in employment?  My first response is to tell them to be honest with the information on their resume.  I often find both contract and permanent candidates tend to hide the fact they have had gaps in employment, thinking it is often better to gloss over the gaps with vague dates of employment.  In speaking with candidates, I tell them that one of the first red flags a recruiter sees in a resume is either a lack of dates tied to work, grouping of work under one title (ie Consulting) or a resume that is functional skilled base with no reference back to dates.

When a recruiter receives a resume, the first thing they do is look for a continuous stream of employment.  If there are gaps, and there is no explanation on the resume as to what occurred during that time period, it is left up to the recruiter to fill in the story — and this is not a good thing.  People often say they do not want to state what the reason is for the gap and rather explain the gaps in their employment history in an interview.  This strategy often does not work as gaps in a resume can prevent candidates from even making it through to the first interview.

The best way to handle gaps on one’s resume is to fill in the story and not to hide the facts.  Be upfront and honest about why there are gaps:

  1. Explain the reason for the gap. Don’t hide the reason why but own your story. In today’s workplace, clients understand more than ever that there are many reasons for non-continuous work.  From the economy, to personal growth to ailing parents — all of these factors impact ones’ work life.
  2. Keep the explanation brief.
  3. If you left a job voluntarily, don’t be afraid to explain why (i.e. pursue higher education, change of career, etc.)
  4. Match the story on one your resume with the one on social media. Any inconsistencies will lead to not being considered for opportunities.  Recruiters often compare information, especially employment dates, from a resume vs linkedin.
  5. Be accurate with the date between contracts/employment. Often, candidates find it tempting to add months onto the start of employment and to the termination of employment, trying to lessen the time off.  Many clients ask agencies for verification of employment dates.  If the dates confirmed do not match those on the resume or the social media profile, a candidate’s offer can be withdrawn.
  6. Emphasize the positives of a break in employment (i.e. new certifications, volunteer experience, etc…)
  7. If you were let go from a previous employment, be prepared to explain it during an interview and to be positive about the past situation. Being negative about a previous employer is often a turnoff to a potential new employer.

Honesty is always the best policy.

The New Gig Economy for Baby Boomers

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

The New Gig Economy for Baby BoomersThe Globe and Mail recently published an article about all the buzz around the new “gig” economy, and how it is not just for millennials.

A ‘gig economy’ is defined as “an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent work for short-term engagements.”

This article highlights the fact that senior level resources and recently retired executives are now realizing the opportunities that are now present due to the “gig” economy and how they may benefit from them.

Eagle began to see the need to provide clients with access to senior resources (on either an interim or consulting basis) who have left their traditional roles in industry.  Over the past 5 years, since launching the Executive and Management Consulting (EMC) division, we have seen the talent pool of industry experts and former management consultants virtually explode.

Clients are realizing that they can now access these subject matter experts and strategic resources without going the traditional route of engaging a consulting firm.  The resources that we work with bring a depth of expertise and professionalism to a client that often exceeds what they can access through other consulting and sourcing channels – and at a fraction of the cost.  These resources typically bring at least 15-20 years of hands on experience managing large business transformation related projects, or have deep subject matter advisory expertise.

Clients have started to understand the large untapped talent pool of resources who are keen to work and have discovered what an asset they are to their organization.  These resources not only bring in-depth expertise to the client, but an incredible work ethic.  The baby boomer “gig” economy is a fast growing demographic with thousands of people entering the economy every year.  Most candidates that we have spoken to are excited about the opportunities in the market, often not limiting their work to their home city or country.  The key to anyone entering the next stage of their career is to take the time to plan what is most important to you and how to market your new brand into the marketplace.

Start Your Job Search with the Right Recruiter

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

How to Choose the Right Professional Recruitment Agency to Work With

How to Choose the Right Professional Recruitment Agency to Work WithChoosing a professional staffing firm to work with can sometimes be a daunting process.  There are many recruitment agencies out there, and choosing who will be representing you to the marketplace can be (and should be) an important consideration.  At first blush, most employment agencies appear the same – they focus on placing candidates – but as a consultant or job seeker, you should spend as much time vetting your staffing agency as they are vetting you.

Here are 10 questions to help you determine if you are working with the right recruitment agency to help you land your next role:

#1 – How long has the firm existed?  In the placement industry, there are very few barriers to entry and starting one’s own recruitment firm can be fairly easy. When choosing a firm, it is important to go with one that is established and has a solid foot print in the marketplace you are working in.

#2 – What do they specialize in?  Is it in line with what you are looking for?  There are specialist firms, such as IT recruiting, and there are generalist firms.  It is important for candidates to understand what the agency specializes in and what their client reach is in a particular area or industry.  The staffing agency’s website and job postings will be a great indicator of the types of resources that get placed by their firm.

#3 – Do they interview their candidates?  Did they take the time to understand what you are looking for?  A good recruitment agency will take the time to speak with candidates they are actively working with.  An agency should either do a phone interview or an in-person interview.  If neither has been done, and the recruiter is asking the right to represent you, think again.

#4 – Will they ask for the right to present you to a client, each and every time? Every time an employment agency speaks to you about a client job opportunity, contract or permanent, they must ask for explicit permission to be your representative.  If this is not a policy of the agency that you are working with, chances are they are sending your credentials out to the marketplace without your knowledge.  It can be very detrimental to your reputation when you give one recruiter permission to submit your resume, and another agency also submits you to the same role.  Avoid ‘blanket representation agreements’ as clients who receive your resume from two different sources may fault you for the discrepancy.

#5 – What specifics are outlined in their contract?  Payment terms?  Non-competes? A reputable staffing agency should be open to you reviewing their contract proactively. There is nothing worse than landing a dream technology contract role, and then finding out that your agency’s policy is not to pay their contractors until they are paid by their client (which is surprisingly common with smaller or start-up firms).  You should also ask your recruiter to outline their candidate care program – what kind of treatment can you expect once they place you?

#6 – What is their reputation in the staffing industry?  If a recruitment agency is large enough or specialized in your area of skills, you should be able to check out their reputation from colleagues and on social media.

#7 – How professional is their website?  What is their digital footprint? One can often tell a lot from a staffing agency’s digital footprint, including how professional their website looks and feels.  A professional agency should be able to demonstrate, at a minimum, their corporate history, candidate screening and hiring processes overview, and have a career page listed with postings. A code of conduct and ethics page is also a great piece to look out for.

#8 – Who are their clients?  Will the placement agency provide you with the best opportunity to land your next role?  When speaking with a recruiter, don’t be afraid to ask them how large their presence is in the marketplace and who their clients are.  Do they specialize in an industry vertical (ex. Technology, Financial Services, Healthcare, Oil and Gas) or corporation size (Fortune 500 or Small/Medium businesses)?

#9 – How professional are their recruiters?  Once you do get a chance to speak with a recruiter, were they easy to work with?  Did they understand what you are looking for and the parameters around your job/contract search?  Did they go over your recent experience with you and find out what your core skills are?

#10 – What is their candidate turnover rate with a client and how often do they re-work with the same candidates (candidates re-use)? Don’t be afraid to ask the agency this question as this speaks volumes on how well they understand their clients’ needs in terms of candidate fit.  If the turnover ratio is high (more than 2%), then treat this as a red flag! The agency has not taken the time to understand the fit between both parties.  Another great indicator of how well an agency does with its candidates is how often they re-work with candidates (in particular contractors).  Most good staffing agencies will want to work with resources they have placed in the past and these long standing agency/candidate relationships exemplify satisfaction from both parties.

These questions are just the starting point to working with an agency.  In the end, it comes down to your comfort level when dealing with the staffing agency’s recruiters and how they treat you.

Too Much “Corporate Jargon” Can Harm Your Job Search

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Have you “drank the kool-aid”?

Have you gone after “low hanging fruit”?

Do you want to “uberize” an idea?

What do all of these statements have in common?  They are all overused in today’s corporate culture.

Someone sent me this video and I found myself laughing at all the corporate jargon one uses in their day-to-day life.  The video made me stop and think… am I guilty too of using too much jargon?  I think all of us fall into a rut in how to express ourselves.  It is often just easier to grab onto a current saying rather than coming up with a proper or original way to express what we are trying to say.   We easily fall into using overused statements to express our thoughts.  I am not saying it is 100% incorrect to use these statements, but the time and place must be considered.

In my line of work, I spend a good amount of my day speaking with contractors and clients.  I find candidates in particular guilty of overusing phrases such as “I am unique because I act as a bridge between the business and IT” or “I’m a thought leader who thinks outside the box” to convey what they did at their past/current place of work.  Some candidates go as far as to pepper their whole job interview with overused corporate jargon trying to express what they did.  They leave the interview without telling the interviewer what they really did and worse — leaving them with a bad impression of who they really are… a buzzword “abuser”.

What people often don’t realize is that by constantly using overused and overhyped terms (i.e. Uber), the impact of the statement and its true meaning is lost, and so is your credibility. For example, as an independent contractor working with a variety of staffing agencies, you too probably get bored of hearing recruiters dish out lines like “I’m working for a client who offers a great culture and work/life balance” or “This position offers great opportunity for advancement”.

When going into a job interview, meeting with clients or fellow independent contractors, stop and take the time to understand who your audience is and the best way to convey your message.  Use corporate jargon selectively… or not at all.

Don’t Dump It – Donate It!

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

I have been working in the technology industry for over 2 decades and have had the pleasure of working for companies who regularly refresh the technology they use internally.  For people who are surrounded by technology, you tend to take for granted the access you have to technology, both at work and in your home life.  One also makes the assumption that living in Canada, everyone has access to some sort of computer at school, at home or at work.  This assumption was quashed recently for me.

Don't Dump It - Donate It! Eagle recently went through a technology refresh and we had a number of gently used computers and peripherals up for grabs.  We asked around our office if anyone was interested, and some were taken but a number were left unclaimed. The computers were earmarked for the “technology dump/reseller” market when I made a last ditch effort to find homes for them.  I called around to a number of schools in Toronto to see if any of them could use extra computers.  Much to my surprise, I had immediate takers for the 4 computers we had.   I spoke with a very excited school Principal who said she had a great home for the computers: 2 for her school library and 2 for families who did not have access to a computer at home.

I had the great pleasure of dropping off the computers at the school and was greeted by some of the future users.  They were all excited to see they would have 2 more computers in their library and that 2 of their friends would now have computers at home.

Several organizations have computer refresh programs and many corporations do not donate their used computers, but send them off to companies who strip them down. By simply formatting the hard drive, you can ensure safety of your data and these computers can be donated to organizations or schools in need.

I’m pleased that we were able to find such a good home for these computers, and encourage others to explore these options before having their computers end up in a landfill.

How to Quickly Lose LinkedIn Connections!

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

business time outLinkedIn has become a very important social media tool for business professionals.  With more than 400 million members in 200+ countries, it has become a ‘go to’ site for networking, potential job opportunities, and interesting posts.

Inevitably, with the positives come some negatives.  I recently read a post about some of the most annoying behaviours on LinkedIn – and I’ve unfortunately come across many of these behaviours myself.

Although I maintain a very lean network of professionals that I have worked with and met personally, I am sometimes surprised at the content that I come across on a daily basis.  One of my biggest pet peeves is how overcrowded my LinkedIn network feed has become.  I am finding that I have to sift through a lot of junk updates to actually find out what my contacts are up to or to find an interesting or relevant article.

When speaking with candidates about how to manage their LinkedIn profile, I often caution the LinkedIn user to post content carefully.  Like any social network, people are interested in you but don’t always want to be keep up to date on every thought, opinion or personal situation. You won’t necessarily know that you’ve been ‘unfollowed’, but rest assured, it’s an option that users take advantage of.

When posting updates, make the content meaningful and more importantly, make sure it is professional.  For some additional tips, here is a post on how to manage who sees your network feed and how to manage what others see of your postings.  Also, check out this more recent article discussing some default LinkedIn settings you should change in order to have a more successful LinkedIn experience.

The Outstanding Opportunities for a Senior Executive

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

The Outstanding Opportunities for a Senior ExecutiveIs there life after being employed fulltime at the Executive Level? The short answer is YES!

Over the past 5 years, the Canadian marketplace has seen an increase in the demand for Interim Executives, as well as for industry experts to provide subject matter expertise in the role of a Management Consultant.

More and more, as senior executives take packages from Fortune 500 Canadian Firms, for whatever reason, they quickly learn that there is an interest and strong demand for their skills.  Organizations across Canada and around the world want to draw upon their deep industry expertise on an as needed basis, without the high costs associated with having these professionals on a full-time basis.  The resulting agreement is attractive to both parties – the Executive gets to pick and choose their own clients and projects, and when they want to take one on (many take months off between roles) and clients gain the flexibility of hiring an exceptional, results-focused consultant, but only when they need them.

If you’re considering the management consulting route, but unsure if you’ll be able to find work, consider this: Hot interim and management skills in demand right now are for industry experts who possess deep knowledge of running large enterprise-wide programs at the Program Director and Portfolio Director level.  Another hot skill in demand is for industry subject matter expertise from industries such as banking.

In particular from banking are those execs who possess deep knowledge of the payment industry.  Fintech companies are entering the payment marketplace very quickly, and while these firms have the deep technology skills and entrepreneurial flare, many are lacking expertise around governance and compliance rules.  Already at Eagle, we have seen Fintech firms seek out these experts to ensure their offering is in compliance with government regulations.

The Fintech industry is just one example. In fact, there are a plethora of opportunities in all industries for senior-executives to take on a new career and have flexibility, while bringing value to multiple organizations.  If this is something that interests you, but you’re unsure where to start, leave your questions in the comments section below. Or, if you made this switch and have any advice to offer, we’d love to hear about that too!

The Secret to Climbing Africa’s Highest Peak

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

The Secret to Climbing Africa's Highest PeakI just returned from one of the toughest, but also one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. A little over a month ago, I posted about my preparation and challenges for my upcoming climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. Now that I’ve completed the journey, returned home safely, and had a chance to reflect on the past couple weeks, I’d like to share with you one of the most important take-aways I brought back with me. Something I always knew, but this trip made me see it in a whole other light:  When taking on any major challenge, a solid team with an exceptional leader will make the difference between success and failure.

Overall, our trek up Kili was a very difficult climb — harder than we expected due to some horrible weather conditions. Fortunately, we were accompanied by a team of experienced climbers, including a Chief Guide. Our Chief Guide informed us from that start that every day would be a challenge. She would give us instructions to follow that seem simple, but were critical to making it to the peak (like eating food when we did not have an appetite due to the fact the altitude had killed our appetites).  She kept us on a very short leash, yelling instructions from the minute we got up at 6am until we fell asleep exhausted in our tents at 9pm.  Twice a day we were given information about what lay ahead and what was to be expected.  She was tough on us but we knew what was expected.  She told us over and over again that she and the rest of the team (all 93 of them) were there for us and that everyone wanted to see us at the top!

The most gruelling part of the trip was Summit Night, where we set off to reach the summit starting at midnight. Forming a long conga line of people up the mountain, we had only our headlamps and the night moon to light our way.  As a team, we had to work slowly and take one small step at a time, as anything bigger was dangerous due to the slope of our climb, the darkness and the fear of hitting someone in front of us.  We all had to work as a team to get to the top and we were kept in spirits by Fuso who sang to us to help keep us awake and positive.

It was tempting to let the overall toughness of the challenge consume us but, as our Chief Guide told us, the key is to focus on the step in front of you, and don’t get overwhelmed by the day and its challenges.  It is easier to cope with any problem or task one step at a time. What kept us going was thinking about all the little steps that need to be taken in order to achieve the overall goal of reaching the summit.

Overall, it was a team effort that got us to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Every day had its challenges throughout the journey, but we were well taken care off.  We knew what we had to do and it was one step at a time that led to the ultimate success!

Keeping the End Goal in Mind… One Step at a Time

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Keeping the End Goal in Mind... One Step at a TimeIt is less than two weeks until I leave for my Kilimanjaro trek.  I posted in July about pushing one’s limits and thinking outside of what you would normally do, and being surprised at what can be accomplished.  I have been training for 9 months for the trek and have been busily preparing myself physically, mentally, and emotional for the adventure.  There has been a lot of planning and prep work and the greatest challenge still awaits me.

When thinking about the trek, and all the prep work, it gets overwhelming and easy to lose sight of the end goal.  You can get buried in all the details which start to seem daunting but what has kept me going is the end goal — to reach the summit safely and to raise funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

You don’t have to climb a mountain to apply this advice. When working on any intense project plan, the keys to the end success are identical:

  • Be well prepared and set goals. You don’t need to spend 9 months of intense training for your IT project, but you do need to be prepared with a detailed plan. My team has a complete itinerary detailing our climbing plan, including goals for each day and how long it should take to achieve them. Setting these milestones helps ensure success and keeps us from getting overwhelmed by the overall project.
  • Surround yourself with a great team. I’ve been training with an amazing group of people. We’re always encouraging each other in training, and I know that during our climb, we’ll continue to help each other up so we all reach the summit together. On top of this team, we’ll have an experienced leader we can trust to help us through the challenges and guide us up the mountain.
  • Keep climbing. Like every project you work on, as the trek gets tough, the only way to succeed will be to continue moving forward. A positive attitude, the support from that team, and determination to work through adversity will be crucial for me to reach the summit, and are critical elements to work through any complex project.
  • Keep the end goal in mind. Do you know the end goals of your project? Of course it has to be on time and on budget, but what else do you want to accomplish? As I said, my end goal is obviously to reach the summit, but I also want to get there safely and raise funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Identifying your intrinsic motivations that mean the most to you will help push through those times you think about slacking or giving up completely.
  • Celebrate your successes. After 7 days of grueling work, including a final 12-15 hour climb that starts at midnight, my team will be greeted at Millennium Camp with a nice beverage. In the following days, we’ll get the opportunity for more celebration, well-deserved spa time and a chance to explore the sights the region has to offer. How do you and your project team celebrate victories? Exploring Africa may be excessive, but dinner and drinks are a great way to wind down, focus on all of your accomplishments, and guarantee that you end on a positive note.

Every project, from climbing a mountain to developing software, will face set-backs. The key is to focus on the end goal and reach the summit one step at a time. That’s the strategy my team and I developed, and I invite you to use the same steps on all of your projects.

Please visit my page to support my trek and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

The Importance of a Solid Contract

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

The Importance of a Solid ContractOne of the most common complaints I hear from contractors, especially those new to the world of being an independent contractor, is that contracts seem very complicated and onerous to review.  They also wonder why the contracts differ from agency to agency.  Many contractors in the past have told me they have started a contract with an agency/end client before reviewing or signing a contract!!  And worse… they have agreed to work at a client site based on an email exchange.

I often remind contractors that having a solid contract in place prior to starting any project is critical.  The contract protects both you, the independent, and the client from any potential legal issues that may later arise.  Most agencies have standard templates for contractors to review and sign off and these contracts are often drafted with client flow agreements in place.  Contracts will also vary depending on whether you’re Incorporated, a Sole Proprietor or part of a Partnership.  The contract is the basis for establishing the business relationship between the parties involved.

Key elements to a good contract agreement contain at least the following:

  • Start and end date to a contract;
  • Scope of services to be delivered;
  • Fees to be paid (ie. hourly, daily or on deliverables);
  • Payment terms (ie. monthly);
  • Payment process (ie. authorized time);
  • Confidentiality clause; and,
  • Termination clause.

Many client contract flow downs contain more robust information such as liability clauses, intellectual propriety rights, security clauses, non-compete and non-solicitation clauses.  Often these clauses can seem overzealous and off-putting, but a review by a lawyer can help alleviate and address any concerns.  At a minimum, all of these clauses should be taken seriously, and a contract that is lacking in the basics should cause the signer to beware.

Eagle has been involved in many instances where a client asked us to payroll a contractor from another agency.  As part of Eagle’s due diligence process, we review a contractor’s past contract.  We often find that some agencies have “treated” the contractor like an employee and have put them at risk of either co-employment with the agency or have failed to properly withhold proper taxes as in the case of sole proprietors.  Contractors should be wary of an agency or even an end client who “brushes” the importance of a sound contract aside.  Often, this is a tell-tale sign to potential issues to come (for example, having to chase down unpaid invoices).

On that topic, here is some advice to contractors when working with a new agency or client:

  • At the outset of the conversation, ask for a copy of the contract agreement so that you have plenty of time to review it prior to landing a new contract.
  • Take the opportunity to hire a lawyer to review the document if this is the first time dealing with the agency or the end client.  Even though a clause may look like the “standard” clause, often minor changes can make a huge difference in the intent of the clause (ie. replacing OR with AND).
  • Always keep a copy of your contract.

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask questions!  A reputable organization should have no problem clearly explaining the various clauses in their contract and the reasoning behind them.  If you have any hesitations, seek legal advice.