Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Job Interviews

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to job interview.

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Crystal Nicol By Crystal Nicol,
Delivery Manager, Eastern Canada at Eagle

How to Prepare for a Job InterviewMaking it to the interview stage in the job search process is exciting and stressful at the same time. It means you’ve been shortlisted and the chances of you getting the job have increased; however, a blown interview destroys those chances together.

Remember when you are invited for an interview, the client already thinks you have the right qualifications for the job based on your resume. You need prepare properly so you can demonstrate these qualifications in the interview and back-up what’s in your resume. Here are a few simple ways you can prepare and significantly increase your chances of winning that job.

Before a Job Interview or Phone screen

  • Research the company’s website and find out useful company information. Extend that search to social media and investigate LinkedIn profiles, especially of the person who is interviewing you. Glassdoor may also reveal company’s specific interview process. Understand the company’s mission and try to find a way to work your knowledge of it into your responses.
  • Prepare questions in advance to discuss during or at the end of the interview. We always want to impress a recruiter or a hiring manager so prepare questions that demonstrate your knowledge and interest the company. Since you have already been looking into the company and looking on the LinkedIn profile of the hiring manager you can start by saying, “I did some research on the company and saw that you have worked at this company for <# OF YEARS>. What is your favorite thing about the company? How did your role evolve? This gives you a chance to build a rapport with the interviewer and the company.
  • Prepare a few interesting facts that you learned about the company through your research. Perhaps the company has won some awards that are important to you or their top-line company objectives/goals. Are they active in the community? What is their company story? Be prepared to discuss these facts if you are asked what you know about the company.
  • Convey in all of your answers how you were successful in your previous jobs. To do this you must provide concrete examples of how you succeeded. Instead of saying, “I was often told I was the one project manager that saved the company money” you could say, “I was able to decrease the budget by 20% saving the company $2M over the first 6 months of the project.”
  • Remember, quite often, a hiring manager will hire someone with the likeability factor. If there are 2 technically strong candidates in the running, the candidate that demonstrated a higher likability factor will likely be the candidate to get the job. They are always looking for someone who is the right FIT for the role. You need to connect with the interviewer. You can do this by being confident and try to interact as if you are already working together. Smile often, avoid any nervous gestures (easier said than done), maintain eye contact and actively listen to the interviewer. The key is that you don’t get too comfortable but be natural and try to have a great conversation by being yourself.
  • Show enthusiasm. Show them that you really want this role. Give them examples of why you are excited for this role. For example, “I am so excited about this role because it give me exposure to working within an AGILE environment and I want to put my SCRUM certification to good use.”

Other Interview Tips

In addition to these preparation tips, always remember these basic interview skills that will ensure you appear professional:

  • Dress for success – strong presentation
  • Always give a firm handshake
  • Make consistent eye contact
  • Make sure you answers are concise and thoughtful, but always relevant to the questions asked (don’t go off track, stay focused).

After you have completed the interview it is always imperative to follow up with a Thank You email. This allows to you maintain interaction with the interviewer, provide any additional information and reiterate your interest/excitement in the role. Check out this helpful link for some additional tips on writing the “Job Interview Thank You Email”.

Preparing for a Successful Client Interview

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

Preparing for a Successful Client InterviewGot an interview coming up with a client?  It should be a piece of cake, especially if you are a professional contractor.  Most contractors go on 5-6 interviews a year, so it should be a breeze and just a little prep should be needed, right?  Think again!!!   Preparing for a contract interview should be taken with as much care as preparing for a full-time interview.  Although the client will often ask similar questions, the contract interview tends to happen at a much quicker pace and as such, it is important for a contractor to relay their skills and value proposition to the prospective client in the first interview (often…the only interview).  A complaint I am hearing from clients recently is that contractors are showing up to interviews unprepared and sometimes even uninterested.

If a contractor is working with an agency to secure their next contract, the agency should be able to provide you with details about the role, why it is open and who the interviewers are.

Preparing for an interview for a contract role goes beyond knowing about the project and the client.  It is being able to clearly demonstrate your value proposition to the client and why you would be the best person for the role.  In order to do this, candidates must really know what they have put down on their resume and what value past experience will have to the potential client and the project.

Clients tend to focus on the following when interviewing contract candidates:

  • Provide examples of where your past project experience is similar to the upcoming project – What value can you bring to the project? Any lessons learned?
  • Describe the project in detail. A common complaint from clients is that contractors often skim project details. This gives the client the impression that the contractor does not know the work they had done and also gives the impression that some the details found on the resume were fabricated (i.e. you did not actually do the work and added in key words into your resume in order to be selected for an interview). Project details that clients are most interested in are:  role in the project, size of the project team, stakeholders who were involved, technologies used, value of the project, what stage you entered the project and was the project implemented on time/budget.
  • What type of style do you have in relaying the information. It is critical that when recapping projects to a client that you know all the details and can relay them with ease (and not struggling to remember).  Not being able to recall past projects is a potential sign that the project was not important or again, the project was embellished on the resume.
  • Be professional when speaking about past projects. We have all worked on a project that has not gone well.  When speaking about the project, focus on your role and the skills you brought to the project.  Clients will select a candidate who is more positive about past experience, rather than dwelling on the negative sides of a project.
  • Ask questions about the current project. Go prepared with a copy of the role description and show interest in the role.  Clients have sometimes chosen a less qualified candidate as they showed more interest in the project than someone who came across as less “excited” – ie. “been there, done that”.

Just like past employment/projects follow a candidate, especially in a small market, so do bad interviews.  Clients will pass along information to other potential hiring managers within their organization about contractors who have come in for an interview along with their biases.  It is really important to keep in mind that when interviewing with any organization, especially large ones that hire many contractors such as the Banks and Telcos, to always be prepared and to leave a positive experience with the interviews.

Adjust Your Communication Style for a Successful Interview

Adjust Your Communication Style for a Successful InterviewRecruiters will be the first to tell you that everybody is different. They meet thousands of people throughout their careers, all with diverse personalities and backgrounds. As such, the best recruiters excel at understanding you and how to work with you in order bring you the right projects. Topping the list of a person’s unique qualities is your communication style.

By knowing an individual’s preferred communication methodology, recruiters convey the right information and minimize misunderstandings. A skill this valuable shouldn’t be limited to recruiters. Because you’re bound to come across recruiters, clients and team members who are brutal at communicating, you too should perfect the art of adjusting to others’ communication styles.

A common time when communication fails is during an interview, either with a recruiter or client. It’s often a first meeting and, as such, there is no past experience for the parties to fall back on. If an explanation comes across poorly, that first impression has a more severe impact on their decision to hire you. Let’s examine four common styles of communication. By understanding them, you can identify which your interviewer prefers and adjust what you say to match their style.

Director

A Director likes to have control and wants to get things done as quickly as possible. They’re fast-paced and goal-oriented and have no time for small talk. While they may come across as impatient and insensitive, they’re just focused on achieving that end-result. If you find yourself interviewing with a Director, refrain from long, wordy explanations, and answer their questions directly. Provide straight-answers and back-up your experience with quantitative facts.

Socializer

The Socializer is the extreme opposite of the Director. Usually an extrovert, this person is all about relationships. They’re also more likely to make decisions based on their gut feelings. If your recruiter or client is a Socializer, then don’t brush them off when they ask about your weekend, and take the time to hear their stories (even if you think they’re boring and irrelevant to your work). You want them to leave the interview with a good feeling about you. Finally, because this group tends to have a short attention span, you will also need to ensure all of your strengths are clearly and simply articulated.

Thinker

The Thinker is a very analytical problem solver. It will take them longer to make decisions and they will want to make sure they have all of the facts about you. For this reason, you can expect a Thinker to ask more questions and dig deeper.  This is also the person who is most likely to catch you lying, so while we never recommend it, definitely don’t try it with a Thinker. For a successful interview with a Thinker, answer questions to the point, similar to a Director, but feel free to go into more detail, with more examples to back-up your experience.

Relater

A Relater is all about the warm, fuzzy feeling. They are very people-oriented and nurturing individuals who value relationships. Because of this, brushing off conversation, showing a colder side of your personality, or trying to play hardball in negotiations is going to leave a bad taste in their mouth. Instead, work at building a relationship with your recruiter or client and provide examples of your team work, showing your willingness to work and get along with anyone.

This high-level overview of communication styles is just the tip of the iceberg. Regardless of if you buy into the traits above, you at least need to understand that everybody is different, and the more you can adjust to their styles, the more successful you will be — in interviews, at work, or your personal relationships. If you disagree with our communication styles, we encourage you to take some time to learn more on the topic to find a model that works for you.

Things Recruiters Love to Ask and Hate to Hear

The best place to seek interview advice is directly from those who conduct them each day. As such, in order to bring you the some fresh information and an interesting perspective, we asked our recruiters a few questions about interviews. Rather than looking for the standard advice, we dug a bit deeper to help independent contractors understand recruiters’ unique methods and experiences that form the interview.

Things Recruiters Ask…

Things Recruiters Love to Ask and Hate to HearFirst, we asked recruiters for some of their favourite questions to get a candidate to think outside-the-box. Here are some of the top interview questions for IT contractors:

  • How did you save money, make money, or change a business process that did both in your past job?
  • What is your Achilles heel?
  • What have you brought to the “Project Management” field from your Bachelor Degree in Arts History, Education?
  • What is the one thing that people misunderstand about you?
  • What sets you apart from your peers?
  • Tell me about your biggest failure and how it made you successful in your career?

Things Recruiters Hear — the Little White Lies…

Next, we set out to learn about some of the fibs they hear most often, and where they tend to be most skeptical about candidates. They pointed out that junior candidates tend to be the bigger culprits, and that is occurs less in the IT industry than others. Regardless, these are the most common little white lies that recruiters hear (though some they didn’t learn were lies until it was too late):

  • “I left on good terms.” “We had a parting of ways.” — This can be seen as code for “something was brewing, and I was fired/I quit”
  • When asked about weaknesses, most candidates give a canned (bogus!) answer.
  • “All my projects are on-time, on-budget and to scope.”
  • Over-exaggerating responsibilities
  • Experience with a specific technology
  • Yes, i am very interested in this role
  • Current salary
  • Why they are looking

…And the Other Stories

Finally, if you want to understand why some recruiters question you or seem like they have little trust, remember that they have seen and heard a lot. Here’s what recruiters say are the more extreme lies they’ve been told:

  • “The candidate said they worked at a company where they have never worked.” (These things are easy to verify and destroy your reputation.)
  • “A candidate with a fake resume – entirely fake – showed up for a face-to-face interview with me hoping I’d pass him along to a client.”
  • “That the candidate had relocated for a role, when in fact they were commuting 3 hours EACH WAY every single day for a contract…. you can’t hide that kind of exhaustion from a client.”
  • “A candidate said they couldn’t make the interview because someone stole their car (…it was a lie)”
  • “They couldn’t make the interview as they were “sick” but I later found out they were in another province and didn’t want to tell me.”

Understanding a person, their background, and what influences who they are is a tactic sales people often use to persuade a client into buying their product. The same is true for IT contractors looking to sell their skills to a recruiter. Hopefully this brief insight into a recruiter’s mind gives you one more tactic during your next interview.

From Standard to Stand-Out

Brianne Risley By Brianne Risley,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

Turning “Good” Interview Responses into “Great” Ones

From Standard to Stand-Out -- Turning "Good" Interview Responses into "Great" OnesAs a professional recruiter, I am often struck by how many job seekers answer common interview questions in the exact same way.  Technically, there is nothing wrong with giving an “OK” answer that 4 out of every 5 people will give.  It’s safe.  But for the job you WANT, your response to every question should help you Stand-Out and offer the hiring manager a taste of your ‘unique value proposition’.

Here’s an example of a common question that you can turn from a Standard response into one that Stands-Out!

The Situation: You are asked by the Hiring Manger to describe your experience with a tool / skill you do not have.  How do you tackle this?

The Standard Response: “It’s not hard… I can learn it.”

Consider this:

  • “I can learn it” is a nice sentiment, but you’re asking the hiring manager to essentially ‘take your word for it’ with no facts, figures, or scenarios to provide them context. “Trust me” isn’t a strong value proposition.  Give the hiring manager a map of how you’ve handled a similar challenge in the past and come out on top!
  • The skill is clearly a pain-point, or the hiring manager wouldn’t be asking about it. Sometime, somewhere, this manager had a bad experience with someone lacking this skill.  A Stand-Out response will acknowledge the skill as an important one, and offer a ‘sell-message’ outlining your past success learning new skills.

How does this help you stand out from other candidates who can also ‘learn it’, or worse, those that “have” it!  Here is a better way!

The Stand-Out Response: “I can see why that is important to you.  I haven’t yet had the opportunity to work with that exact version; however, as an Analyst at XYZ Company, I was faced with learning a similar tool with very little ramp-up time.  I reviewed training on my own time, collaborated with co-workers, and attended industry events to come up-to-speed and producing with the tool within 4 weeks.  Before leaving that company, I even had the opportunity to train new users on it.  Would that approach work in your environment, Ms. Hiring Manager?”

Here’s the framework:

  • Acknowledge the need is an important one
  • Provide a specific time and place where you learned/used a very similar skillset
  • Outline how you used your own initiative to learn it
  • Outline the success you had in learning it
  • Get the hiring manager’s acknowledgement that your approach would work in their environment.

That’s a response that a Hiring Manager can take to their boss or HR to argue in favor of hiring YOU over someone who has the skill.

Do you have an interview question that you’d like a recruiter’s perspective on?  Add a comment – we would love to take your response from “standard” to “stand-out”!

10 Reasons to Take a Face-to-Face Interview with a Recruiter

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

10 Reasons to Take a Face-to-Face Interview with a RecruiterA recruiter asks you to come in for an interview but you have so much on the go. What do you do? Should you blow them off? After all, you’ve already sent over a resume and had talked to them over the phone about what kind of work you want. What more could a face-to-face interview possibly do for you?

Face-to-face interviews with recruiters are more than you may think! Here are 10 reasons to take that interview and increase your chance of getting the next job you’ve been wanting.

  1. Your Recruiter Will Remember You in the Future. Science shows that we remember faces far easier than we remember emails.  🙂
  2. Face-to-Face is Second-to-None. There is simply no technological replacement for face-to-face interaction… including Skype/video interviews!
  3. Get Across What Your Resume Can’t. Communication is over 90% non-verbal.
  4. Your Recruiter Will Better Understand You. Inevitably an unknown skill or strength of yours is going to come out in a face-to-face meeting.
  5. It Will Help Your Recruiter Sell You. Recruiters are not only interviewing you, but also working to provide the strongest presentation of your skills and attributes to the end client. You have a mutual objective.
  6. Its great practice! In today’s business market, IT skills are not enough.  We should use every opportunity available to hone communication and networking skills.
  7. It’s Efficient. Relationships are built more quickly, strongly and efficiently in face-to-face meetings. Recent surveys have shown that it takes five Skype/video meetings to equal one face-to-face meeting.  It’s a safe leap to surmise that the number of emails required to do the same would be incredibly high, and very likely still not reach anywhere near the same level of rapport.
  8. Build Trust. Face-to-face meetings foster a greater sense of trust and commitment to honesty. People are able to “dehumanize” written email communication.  Most people are committed to doing right by others, face-to-face meetings foster relationships which allow for the humanization of the communication, therefore resulting in more people doing the “right thing”.
  9. You will learn something valuable. It is almost impossible for two professionals to communicate without learning something. Recruiter and contractor meetings/interviews offer a great opportunity for each to learn about the others profession and craft.  We are working together in the end!
  10. Meeting with people is FUN! Approach these sessions positively and with enthusiasm and hopefully it will be remembered as a very positive experience.

Communication is Key for a Successful Job Interview

Making the Most of That One Big Chance to Make a Lasting First Impression

This guest post was provided by the good folks at Effortless English

Making the Most of That One Big Chance to Make a Lasting First ImpressionThere is a good chance that you have had at least one job interview, and probably more than that, where you review your performance and feel frustrated that you could have given some better answers to the questions put to you.

Trying to anticipate the sort of questions you are going to be asked will help you to prepare for the process and stop you from freezing in the headlights when you get thrown a curve ball question.

Rise above the crowd

Of course, it is not just about rehearsing some carefully crafted stock answers to certain questions, as your interviewer will probably have come across these responses many times before. To get the job or even be considered for the job, you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd and make it easy for your interviewer to remember you and mark you down as a potential candidate for filling the role.

As this resource demonstrates, the mindset that you need to adopt is that you are not applying for a job as such, but selling yourself in the style of sales presentation. Your pitch might well amount to the same thing as submitting your application for a position, but the mindset and approach are different.

If you are trying to perfect your English and want to come across as grammatically correct as possible, the fundamental point being put across by the Effortless English service in the link above, is that to present yourself in the best possible light, it is not a case of sitting down and laboriously going through a set of rigid grammar rules, it is much more a case of learning to think English grammar.

There is a difference between the two learning methods, and that can definitely come across in a much more personable way when you are sat across the table from an interviewer, and trying to sell yourself as the best candidate they have seen.

Good listening skills are essential

The art of listening is also often grossly underestimated when it comes to coming across as a strong candidate.

Some consider listening to be one of the most important communication skills that you can possess, and it could be argued that one of the most powerful ways to make a meaningful connection with another person, is to listen.

This is an attribute that can serve you well in an interview process. Yes, you are expected to do a lot of speaking and provide convincing answers when being interviewed for a job, but just as important is knowing when to stop and listen to what is being said to you and what is specifically being asked.

Listening doesn’t just mean interpreting the words being spoken. It also means non-verbal as well as verbal communication skills.

Your ability to listen successfully hinges greatly on the extent to which you are able to accurately perceive and understand the verbal and nonverbal messages being portrayed to you in the interview process.

Many companies put a lot of emphasis on good communication skills, and if you are able to demonstrate this ability in abundance during your interview, by the way you speak, listen and present yourself, you will be increasing the odds of getting the call to say the job is yours.

Top 10 Job Interview Tips (Video)

Even the most seasoned independent contractors can polish up their job interview skills. The problem is, you’ve heard all of the same tips by now. Boring advice such as “Be prepared”, “Stay positive,” and “Demonstrate your accomplishments” may not be cutting it. Instead, you need to differentiate yourself. Thankfully, Michael Spicer from BBC Three created this light hearted, fun video of job interview tips you haven’t heard. (Note: Please don’t actually consider these suggestions with interviewing at Eagle.)

Even the Best Recruiters Aren’t Always Technical

How to Deal with Recruiters Who Have No Clue What They’re Talking About

How to Deal with Recruiters Who Have No Clue What They're Talking AboutGreat recruiters at staffing agencies are pretty awesome. They find opportunities that fit your skillset, coach you through the application process and can provide helpful knowledge about a client to increase your odds of winning a contract. As great as they are, though, they sometimes won’t know or understand every detail of the role for which they’re interviewing you, nor will they be completely versed in your technology. After all, if they were that capable, they’d be applying to same positions as you! Even when interviewing with a client, you may end up in a situation where the hiring manager doesn’t know exactly what they’re talking about. As former Ford executive Lee Iacocca once said, “I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.”

Independent contractors need to be prepared for these situations. Interviewers without proficient understanding of your role may ask questions that don’t make sense or use improper terminology, but you need to refrain from being discouraged or rude. Instead, when you recognize you’re meeting with somebody lacking technical knowledge, take a step back and consider some of these tips:

  • Figure out what they’re looking for. Depending on the stage they’re at in the recruiting process, recruiters may not even care too much about your technical knowledge. Especially in your first meeting with a new employment agency, the goal may simply be to determine if you’re an ethical independent contractor and to understand how you would fit in with their clients.
  • Focus on what’s happening in the moment. As already mentioned, don’t let yourself get discouraged about an interviewer who doesn’t seem to know what they’re talking about. Stay in the moment and put 100% of your attention into the questions they are asking. (see the previous point)
  • Tell good stories and brag about yourself. Even though the interviewer may not understand everything you tell them, continue to take the opportunity to talk about your experience and outline your accomplishments. Your goal here is not only to demonstrate your range of knowledge, but also let the recruiter see the enthusiasm you have for your job.
  • Don’t overdo the bragging. While you do need to demonstrate your expertise and experience, over-explaining experience using complex terminology to somebody you know doesn’t understand is going to make you appear as arrogant, not helpful. Know where to draw the line and when to stop.
  • Volunteer some information. Again, without coming across as arrogant, feel free to add new details to the interview. As a technology professional, you’ve been to many interviews for IT roles and know the common questions. If something hasn’t been asked, weave it into your answer or volunteer it at the end of your job interview. You can also include it in your follow-up email.
  • Help them learn. Like every good professional, your recruiter wants to learn and get better their job. This is a fantastic opportunity for an independent contractor to add value and build a relationship within a staffing agency. During the interview, provide them with a little bit more knowledge that will help them with future interviews. This could be explaining a technology in a bit more depth or just passing on a resource where they can seek more information in their own time.

There is no arguing that a recruiter, hiring manager, or whoever else is interviewing you for a specific contract, better have a solid understanding of the project and specific tasks that will be required of you. There is not, however, a need for them to know the ins and outs of your role — that’s why they’re seeking the subject matter expertise of an independent contractor.

Have you been interviewed by a recruiter who wasn’t sure what they were talking about? How did you handle it? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Do Your Part to Have a Successful Job Interview

Every recruiter here at Eagle has a story of an interview gone wrong. We’re confident that recruiters at every other employment agency and within any other company’s HR department have a few of their own horror stories as well. Vice-versa, most job seekers and independent contractors also have stories of their own where they messed up a job interview or client meeting.

Bad interviews happen no matter who you are, but the good news is there are many techniques and skills you can learn to minimize these occurrences. Sure, a bad interviewer or shabby recruiter could play a big role in the disastrous meeting, but following the job interview tips provided in this infographic from Company Folders will at least ensure that you’ve done your part.

Graphic Design Interview Tips
Learn More Graphic Design Interview Tips