Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Job Searching

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

The Key Differences Between Contract and Permanent Resumes

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

The Key Differences Between Contract and Permanent ResumesYour resume is one of your best marketing tools.  In addition to a great social media profile, your resume is the primary tool used to get you through the door for an interview, affording you valuable face-to-face time to ultimately sell yourself to a potential employer.

Candidates often ask how their resumes should differ if they are targeting permanent vs contract employment.  In many cases there would be significant differences, and we strongly recommend having more than one CV if candidates are genuinely interested in both permanent and contract work.

For consulting opportunities, clients are generally focused on a candidate’s ability to come in, hit the ground running and successfully deliver on a very specific mandate.  Consulting resumes are often longer and more detailed, particularly when consultants are bidding on public sector work.  In these cases, clients require very detailed information to clearly show that a consultant’s experience fits their mandatory requirements.  Clients are typically seeking someone who has ‘been there, done that’ as there is little ramp up and training time afforded in the contract world.

For permanent employment opportunities, clients are trying to gauge a candidate’s overall fit for not only the role, but the organization as well.  It is, therefore, not only essential to focus on past achievements and quantifying details on how you have benefited your previous employers and added value to the organization, but also to provide some insight into your work ethic, leadership style and ultimately your personality.

To offer an example, a Project Manager’s consulting resume should always have details provided for key projects including budget, team size, initiative and the outcome (was the project completed on time, under budget).  It’s also important to list specific dates as clients are particularly interested in frequency and duration of contracts.  For a Project Manager’s permanent resume, it would be more important to keep the resume concise and to capture the reader’s interest — but also to show how you can provide value to the organization beyond just leading projects.  It might make sense to provide more of an overall synopsis of achievements but offer an addendum of projects that can be provided on request.

There are many free tools and templates available today, so be sure to do ample research and ensure that your resume is keeping ‘up with the times’.   Is it time for you to revamp your resume(s)?

Applying for a Contract Job vs a Permanent Position

How to Adjust the Way You Search for Jobs When Looking for IT Contract Work

Applying for a Contract Job vs a Permanent PositionSwitching from being a full-time employee to an independent contractor comes with many changes. Everything from your lifestyle to how you get paid to where you go to work will suddenly be different. One change often overlooked by new IT contractors is the way they search for new work.

The first step in understanding how to look for work as a contractor is to know how and why hiring managers are seeking contractors. When dealing with permanent employees, HR departments search for long-term team members who will be a fit with the organization. They want a professional who will be there long-term to grow with the company. When contractors are the preferred choice, it’s often for a specific project and the hiring process is often managed through a separate department such as Procurement. The manager is primarily seeking somebody who has the skills to complete the job at the right price — personality and cultural fit is important, but rarely the top priority. Essentially, it becomes a business-to-business relationship.

Where Should You Look for IT Contracts?

Like any other job search, job boards and social networks are a good start for finding IT contracts. As well, there are websites such as Upwork and Freelancer that are designed specifically for connecting freelancers with companies looking for projects.

Don’t ignore the power a recruitment agency can have in finding you contract work. Staffing agencies will have multiple contracts available for you and the great ones will help you throughout your career. Building valuable relationships with the right recruiters could mean you’ll never have to search for work again. Instead, work will find you.

Finally, keep networking. Not just with Recruiters, but every professional you meet. As your network and reputation as a quality IT contractor grows, the effort you need to put into finding work will shrink.

Change the Way You Communicate

We can’t say it enough — being a contractor is completely different than being an employee and companies want to know that you understand that difference to protect them from certain risks. Demonstrate that you are in the correct mindset by adjusting your communication in resumes, interviews and on the job.

  • Ditch the cover letter. This traditional standard is in the process of phasing out for full-time jobs, but in contracting, it’s nearly useless. If anything, a summary in an introductory email will suffice.
  • Within your resume, eliminate any personal hobbies or career goals that employers typically look at to understand if you’re a fit in their organization and make sure you include a Profile Summary which outlines your key skills and experience.
  • Your interview will be more skills-based with questions targeted at learning how you will complete a specific project. While preparing for it, focus at answering questions related to the environment rather than where you see yourself in five years.
  • Keep in mind specific vocabulary that needs to change. For example as a contractor, you should talk about “rate” and rather than “salary”.

Before You Start Applying to IT Contracts

Prepare yourself before you start applying to these contract roles by understanding everything that comes with being a contractor. This includes a thorough comprehension of the business risks, knowing how accounting and taxes will be managed, finding a suitable insurance package and properly budgeting for the fact that paid vacation days and benefits are a thing of the past. We also strongly recommend incorporating your independent contracting business, as it will come with long-term tax benefits and make you more attractive to future clients. Finally, conduct extensive research to understand your rate as an independent contractor. Without this, you will either get stuck working for much less than you’re worth or not working at all due to a rate demand that’s out-of-sync with the current market.

Switching to independent contracting is an exciting. By understanding the application process and leveraging the tools available, you can cross “finding work” off of your list of stressors.

Contracting in a Competitive Market

Graeme Bakker By Graeme Bakker,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

The contracting space is getting more and more competitive.  As organizations demand more from their contractors and more candidates enter the workspace, one needs to know how to stand out from the rest.

Contracting in a Competitive Market

Media and Social Media are Your friend

 

To stand out in a competitive market, you need to self-promote.  Social media and repositories like GitHub are the perfect place to display your work with like-minded individuals.  Promoting your work on social media or places like GitHub allow you to speak and display your work wherever you are, whether that be a meeting with a recruiter or in an interview with a client.  You’ll seem more prepared, invested and motivated in the project that you are applying for because you believe in your skills/abilities and you want to showcase them.

Invest in relationships and network

Referrals are becoming more and more beneficial to contract workers.  Positive recommendations from others in your field go a long way in getting calls from recruiters and getting you further along in the process.  The more people you know in your field (i.e.: Program Managers, fellow developers at other organizations etc.) the easier it is to get a foot in the door.  Take time to foster relationships from your past contracts and make sure to attend networking events. Know what projects organizations are working on before you attend these sessions so that you can speak to individuals about them and show off your knowledge and interest.  Never burn bridges and work harder in the last week of your contract then you did in the first!  If there is no extension, make sure to leave a last impression.

Certifications and Continuing Education

Certifications are mentioned on almost every job description that a recruiter sees.  Most of the time, these certifications are in the nice to have section.  Nowadays, anything in the nice to have section is code for “these will make you more competitive”!  Contracting can be hard work and breaks after 6 month or 12 month contracts can seem like the perfect time to take a vacation.  During breaks between contracts, you need to be aware of how to effectively fill that time.  Breaks for R&R are totally necessary but as a contractor in an ever changing market you need to have time to build new skills and show that you were productive during larger gaps between contracts.  Taking courses or getting certifications during breaks shows that you continue to self-improve and want to become more competitive for that next role.

Money Isn’t Everything

It is easy to say YES or NO to a role solely based on pay rate.  Recruiters understand that you have bills to pay and deserve a fair rate for your skills and abilities.  In a competitive market like today, you need to weigh your options.  If a role is paying you less than the last, ask youself the following:

  • Will this be a role where I can broaden my skills and expand my network?
  • Is this a role with a new organization/company that I have not yet had the chance to work in that will open doors in the future?
  • Will this role keep me in the tech space and engage me?

The key is not to short-change yourself but also understanding that the benefits to contracting is not always financial but to improve your own professional development.

How do you remain competitive in today’s contracting market?

Quick Poll Results: Where do you search for jobs?

When and where are you searching for jobs? We asked that question in last month’s quick poll and, as usual, we’re sharing the results. Take a look and, just for fun, see if you follow the same routine as other technology professionals. Do you prefer to browse at home, on your lunch break at work or on the way to work (assuming you don’t drive)? Alternatively, maybe you don’t have a set routine and prefer to search anywhere when you have a few minutes or wait to be prompted by a notification.

Of course, there is no right way to search for jobs, as long as it is effective for you, and fits into your planned schedule. If you’re not setting aside time specifically for business development and searching for new contracts, that is a whole other issue. Consider some of these preferred times to take 5 minutes and browse your favourite job boards for new IT contract opportunities.

Quick Poll Results: Where do you search for jobs?

The Myth of the ‘2 Page Resume’

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

We often have candidates tell us that they received advice from others (often outplacement agencies) to pare their resume back to fit into a 2 page format.  While this is possible for some to accomplish, it can pose a challenge for people who are several years in to their career and have many experiences and successes to highlight. The Myth of the ‘2 Page Resume’

We recommend keeping a resume as clean, clear and concise as possible but don’t mind seeing a 3 or 4 page resume, particularly for someone with over 15 years of experience.

It is well known that most recruiters or hiring managers will spend 5-10 seconds reviewing a resume to determine if a candidate is worthy of further exploration. Once you capture someone’s attention it is important to have enough details to further substantiate your fit for an opportunity.  The following are a few key tips to ensure that your resume makes it past the ‘5 second scan’.

  • Keep it chronological rather than functional. Highlighting your overall skills in a functional format is frustrating for anyone reading your resume.  They must spend time figuring out where in your employment experience each functional area ties back to.  If you have a great skill or success but it is from your first job out of school 20 years ago, it may not be considered marketable.
  • Avoid lengthy intros/bio summaries. Your ‘intro’ statement should be no more than 2 sentences, and should be very concise.  Paint a picture for the reader that summarizes your history, highlights and career goals in a very streamlined manner.  An example might be:  A global Program Manager with 20+ years of experience successfully managing highly complex, enterprise wide transformational initiatives.  Seeking a challenging opportunity with an industry leader that will afford me opportunities for growth.
  • Forget the long list of skills at the beginning of the resume. Anyone and everyone can mention ‘Hard Working, Great Time Management Skills, Team Player, Conscientious’.  Focus on highlighting quantifiable achievements rather than a vague listing of skills that simply take up valuable space.
  • Focus on successes/achievements rather than highlighting ‘day to day’ core activities. Every bullet point that you list should be impactful and highlight a success, achievement or initiative that you undertook.  Use words like ‘Successfully, Spearheaded, Exceeded, Efficiently Created, Fostered’, etc.  then finish the sentence with what positive result you achieved from the initiative.
  • No paragraphs, ever.  A bullet point should be less than 2 lines, and should not contain more than one sentence.  If you are using a paragraph format, the reader will lose interest very quickly and you likely won’t make it past 3 seconds!
  • Keep a reasonable font. It is not a great achievement if you manage to get your resume to 2 pages by reducing the font size to 5.  Use a professional font that is easy to read and as a general rule, never use a font below 10.

Ask your recruiter for feedback on your resume, and take their advice.  A resume should be a constant work in progress and should be ever evolving as your career progresses.

For insight into the differences between a typical contractor vs permanent employee resume, stay tuned for my next post!

Are You Really “Detail-Oriented”?

Are You Really "Detail-Oriented"?There are a number of buzzwords and phrases that show up on resumes and LinkedIn profiles across all industries, whether you’re an IT contractor, a fast food worker or anywhere in between. Perhaps one of the most over used is “detail-oriented”.

Most people do pay attention to detail to some degree, but if everyone does, then is it really a differentiator worth putting in your profile summary? If you truly want to stand out as a detail-oriented person, then you need to demonstrate it in everything you do. Here are a few places you can show that you’re detail-oriented before you even start your project with a client.

The Application

Applying for a job through a job board, recruitment agency or directly through a client is usually a simple process but you’d be surprised at how many candidates miss a field or add the wrong information because they failed to read instructions properly. When a recruiter notices this, they immediately laugh at your “detail-oriented” claim in the first line of your resume.

Your Resume

Speaking of your resume, that may be the easiest way to show you pay no more attention to detail than the average person. Spelling and grammar are obvious must-haves, but consistency is another crucial element. Are you using the same fonts throughout? Do you keep the same format for each of your headers, bullets and body text? Does the tense remain the same as you describe your experience? The unfortunate part of a resume that achieves these points is that people rarely notice, but you stick out like a sore thumb when you don’t consider it.

Social Media

Often when creating social media profiles, we quickly fill out the information to get started and promise ourselves we’ll go back later to enhance it. When this next step gets forgotten, it leaves a blank, non-detailed profile for the world to see. Another area to review, especially LinkedIn, is how often you update it. It’s no secret that recruiters compare resumes and LinkedIn profiles to verify honesty, so they will notice if it’s outdated.

Completing Forms and Contracts

Similar to the job application process, but usually more complex, when contractors are asked to complete forms — contracts, security clearances, client policies — we sometimes see them miss important sections or insert the wrong information. More often than not, it’s because the form wasn’t clear on what it was asking. In these cases, it’s best to ask for clarification than make assumptions. Asking for help and admitting to trouble understanding the form may require some humility, but showing that you’ve read it demonstrates your attention to detail, and it’s better than submitting the wrong information.

The Interview

When detail-oriented people attend a job interview, they’re well prepared at a minimum. This means arriving on time, knowing who they’re meeting with and having a copy of their resume and portfolio available. Those who stand out demonstrate their attention to detail throughout the interview. They take extensive notes and ask good questions, building on what the interviewer has told them and proving they’ve been absorbing every word that’s been said.

The First Day

Finally, your first day on the client site plays an important role on showing that you didn’t just add another cliché to your resume. After all, first impressions will form how a client rates you through the entire project. As with the interview, being organized is a minimum requirement. Truly detailed people will have already done their homework on the project and organization so they’re ready to start immediately. Like the interview, ask questions based on what you learn and dig deep into the layers of the project as you familiarize yourself with it.

The term “detail-oriented” makes regular appearances on resumes, but it’s also in many job descriptions, proving clients do believe it to be important. With everybody claiming to have this trait, your challenge is to prove that you are above average and that needs to begin immediately.

What to Do When You Have Multiple Job Offers

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

What was once rare is now common within the IT community — the dilemma of what to do when you have multiple job offers coming in.

What To Do When You Have Multiple Job Offers

Being in demand is great!  As the saying goes, “when it rains, it pours”.  Candidates often ask me what they should do when they are in the midst of interviewing for several positions with multiple firms and what they should do if they receive offers at the same time.  My number one rule: honesty is the best policy.  Keep everyone informed about where you are in your job search process.  If you have several interviews on the go, and you have just met with another new potential company, let them know where you are in process with other firms (ie. just had a second interview, an offer is coming, etc…)  Being professional is very important, especially in a community as small at the IT sector.  Some people think it is none of anyone’s business where you are in your search but being upfront and honest is never a bad thing.  The agencies and companies that you are working with will 100% appreciate the candor and will often see you as a better candidate than others due to your honesty and approach.

Here are some steps that will make decisions process a little easier…

1- Verbal offers – are they as good as a written offer?

Short answer is NO.  Until you have all the details, a verbal offer is not binding.  It does not happen often, but I have seen clients renege on a verbal offer as they lose funding during the approval process.  If you do receive a verbal offer first, express enthusiasm and that you are looking forward to seeing all the details before committing.

2- Written offers – what is really being offered?

Once you have your written offers, take the time to thoroughly go over all the details.  If you are missing information, don’t hesitate to ask for the extra details.  Offer letters often refer to policies that all employees must adhere to but they are often missing from the offer package.  Ask to see these policies as they may impact your decision.  Offers should contain more than just the start date and the compensation package.  Packages should include role description, job title, who you report to, total compensation package including bonus payouts, share options (if applicable), vacation entitlement, benefits package, expense policy, technology policies (i.e. cell phone plan, laptops, etc..).  Important policies to review are intellectual property and non-compete agreement, especially if you are working with new technologies and start-ups.

3 – Take the time to make the right decision.

The interview process is typically a long process, usually due to the client’s hiring hurdles that all candidates must go through.  It is a lot of hurry up and wait and then the offer comes.  Typically, once a verbal offer has been extended (and clients often ask for a verbal confirmation over the phone accepting the offer), they do not give candidates enough time to thoroughly review the details.  It is important to set an expectation with the client that you do need time to review and when you will have a firm answer back them.

If you need extra time, let the hiring managers know.  Be upfront with them they reason why.  Let them know you have a competing offer and want to ensure you are considering all factors in your decision  process.  Clients 100% prefer to know if a candidate has a competing offer rather than be surprised down the road when you start… and then soon after quit.

4 – Develop a pros and cons list for each offer.

Having multiple offers at once is exciting and flattering and sometimes overwhelming.  The best way to review offers is to create a decision matrix listing what each offer has and assigning value to each point.  Factors outside of compensation that have impact on the decision may be benefits, stress level, reporting structure, projects under way, advancement opportunity, work life balance, commuting time, flexibility, etc.  It is often the “soft” factors that sway your decision to take one over the other.

5 – Be professional.

Far too often, candidates that are in demand become arrogant when they receive multiple requests for interviews and then receive multiple offers.  Candidates sometimes exhibit negative behaviour such as dishonesty and game playing.  I agree that people must look out for themselves but there is a fine line between this point and being self-centered.  Candidates should take into consideration the repercussions their actions will have on the potential employer they “game” and their career.  Even though they may not end up with that firm, a client will remember how a candidate treated them and stories of unprofessional behaviour tend to get passed around, especially in a small community such as IT.  Like candidates, hiring managers move from company to company, and they have a long memory, especially of those people who were high handed and unprofessional in a hiring process.  Please be professional and keep all parties informed of where you are in the decision process.  Honesty goes along way.  So does professionalism.

6 – Once an offer has been accepted

Once an offer has been accepted, remove yourself from consideration.  Notify the other would-be employers of your final decision immediately .  Be professional.  Don’t be that candidate who takes the first offer they receive, knowing they have other offers coming, only to start one day and quit the next week.  Send a round of sincere thank yous to all involved, from the agency, to the HR team to the hiring manager.

Depending on your industry and skillset, as your skills continue to increase and the looming skills gap in the IT sector grows, multiple job offers may be more frequent for you in the future. While this is exciting and also tends to lead to higher pay rates, it’s equally important to think of the long-term effects of your actions. Remember to continue to act ethically and be aware of the many stakeholders involved in your hiring process. The more respectful you are to them now, the more respectful they will be to you down the road.

Contractor Quick Poll: Where Do You Normally Apply to Jobs?

We all have different routines and lifestyles, with varying tasks that we need to get done in a day. Two regular tasks that nearly all IT contractors have in common including completing client projects and applying for new projects. With your busy schedule, when do you complete the latter? That’s what we’re asking in this month’s Contractor Quick Poll.

Introverts Guide to Job Interviews

Introverts have it rough. There’s a mindset in the business world that often favours traits usually associated with extroverts. As a result, introverts can go into a job interview with a disadvantage before  walking through the door.

If you’re an introvert (as many IT contractors are) then you know the struggle is real. Worry no more — this infographic from CashNetUSA is here to help. Not only does it point out the overwhelming fact that the world is full of successful introverts, it also identifies unique skills where introverts excel. They combine those skills with tips to overcome common uncomfortable points in a job interview, and the result is perfect toolkit for any introvert on their way to meet with a client or recruiter.

Courtesy of: CashNetUSA

Apparently, This is What a Perfect Resume Looks Like

Is there such thing as a “perfect resume?” We’re hesitant to think so. With factors such as skillset, experience, industry, sector and client, there may never be a one-size-fits-all recipe to a resume. However, there will always be best practices that make it easy for recruiters and clients to evaluate your profile and know if you’re the right person for the contract.

This Business Insider video features an expert who believes she has the perfect resume down to a science. While the term “Perfect” may be questionable, it absolutely hits some crucial points that will help you create a winning resume. If you haven’t been getting as many phone calls from your job applications as you’d like, then consider watching this video to improve your CV.