Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Job Searching

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

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.

How to Ace a Job Search Test on Spec Assignment

This post by Jon Simmons first appeared on the Monster Career Advice Blog.

If you’re asked to complete an assignment as part of the interview process, this is your time to shine.

How to Ace a Job Search Test or Spec AssignmentSometimes, the interview process can feel never-ending. There’s always one more piece of the application to submit, one more interview with the team.

That “one more thing” is often a spec work assignment or test, and it’s a crucial one to get right, because it means you’re being seriously considered for the position.

“I always use spec work with candidates,” says John Engel, president of executive recruiting firm Knowledge Capital Consulting in Charleston, South Carolina. “It’s the final stage of recruiting. The top five finalists get a spec assignment.”

We asked career experts to offer tips on how to make sure your spec work gives you the best shot at beating out the other finalists and getting hired.

Reflect the company in your assignment

You know the old adage: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. To connect with a hiring manager at a company you’re largely unfamiliar with, imitation in spec work can work wonders.

“If you’re doing a writing assignment, it helps to look at the tone of the copy or articles on the organization’s website,” advises Deborah Hankin, VP of Talent, SYPartners, a consulting firm in New York City. “Is it formal? Casual? Authoritative? Your assignment should mirror that tone to show you fit that culture.”

It might be tempting to put your own spin on an assignment, but in most cases, hiring managers want to see if you’re able to produce the kind of work they’re already doing. If they want you to take things in a different direction, they’ll tell you. So even if the style of the work they produce differs from yours, your safest bet is to take your cues from it. This not only makes it more likely that your assignment will pass the test, it also shows that you’ve done your homework.

Ask clarifying questions

Unsure about the assignment’s directions? Having trouble understanding a specific sentence in the guidelines? Don’t just guess at what it might mean or wait until it’s too late. Address it right when you get the assignment.

“Ask smart questions—succinctly and judiciously,” says Hankin. “Remember, [hiring managers] are very busy. If you ask too many questions, you can be seen as not being able to navigate intentional ambiguity.”

For example, if your assignment requires sources, you might ask how many they’d like to see, or how the hiring manager would like them represented (linked in the body of the report or as footnotes or endnotes?).

“If you can’t reach the hiring manager to ask questions, simply make a note in the assignment stating your assumptions,” adds Hankin. “At least if your assumptions are off-base, [the reviewer] can understand your logic in how you solved the challenge.”

Know when to be creative—and when to follow directions

Which is more important, completing an assignment by the book or putting your own spin on it? It depends on the type of role you’re applying for.

“In the creative professions, showing multiple methods to accomplish a task are often welcome,” says Elaine Varelas, managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management company in Boston. “An accounting role may be much less interested in your creative approaches.”

You can never go wrong by delivering more than what they asked for, so feel fee to go above and beyond. Besides a few hours, there is nothing to lose by submitting more work than required in a spec assignment, and it elevates your work above other candidates who only submit the bare minimum.

And finally, what’s the one thing you should always get right? The deadline. Nothing creates a bad first impression like missing a deadline, so whatever it takes, if you want the job, don’t be late with your first assignment.

Why You Should Complete a Skills Matrix and the Secret to Filling One Out

Melissa Bryanton By Melissa Bryanton,
Proposal Manager at Eagle

Have you ever been contacted by a Recruiter who had a great IT contract opportunity where you’re perfectly qualified, but when they send you the details, it includes a massive skills matrix to complete? Suddenly, the job application that you thought would only require a quick resume update and email is turning into a daunting, time-consuming project. You think: Is this job even worth it? Why is the Recruiter wasting my time?

Why You Should Complete a Skills Matrix and the Secret to Filling One OutThe last thing the Recruiter wants to do is waste your time. However, they do need your help highlighting your relevant experience and qualifications that make you a great fit for the job. You would be wise to question any Recruiter who claims they can take your resume as-is, update it and complete the matrix for you. While this seems like a great time-saver, you are the only person who can legitimately explain how your experience matches the client’s job requirements. The risks in allowing an agency to take your resume and run with it is: 1) the resume becomes full of fabricated experience that may or may not make sense – not all recruiters may understand the complexity of your skills or 2) you and the Recruiter spend a lot more time going back and forth on the details in the 11th hour. The outcome of either scenario is going to be negative. Collaborating with the Recruiter on tailoring your resume and completing the matrix is the best option to increase your chances of winning the contract.

What is a Grid/Matrix?

A matrix, also sometimes referred to as a grid, is client-mandated, and usually required when the staffing agency must submit a proposal to their client in response to an RFP, rather than simply submitting a few resumes to the client. The matrix is a document with a table that the client developed, which often includes mandatory and point-rated requirements in one column, and a space in the other column for the candidate to explain their relevant experience and qualifications. The purpose of the matrix is to demonstrate how the candidate meets all the client’s requirements.

What Makes a Successful Matrix?

The key to submitting a winning matrix to a client is detail. Usually, if a candidate is requested through an RFP process, it means 1) there will be many other applicants, and 2) the client must back-up their selection by clearly demonstrating they chose the candidate who meets all the job requirements. As such, if you want a shot at winning a contract that requires a proposal submission, you must be prepared to show as much evidence of your experience as possible.

What Should You Do If Your IT Contract Requires a Matrix?

If your Recruiter tells you your submission will require you to complete a matrix or grid, try not to run for the hills. Keep in mind that many other candidates will also pass up on the opportunity, so you’re already more competitive by proceeding. Here are a few tips to make the process easier and more efficient for yourself:

  • Don’t Panic! Matrices can look challenging with way too much of a time commitment. They can also be confusing. If you open a matrix and immediately feel the pit in your stomach, then contact your Recruiter. The good ones will walk you through the process, explain the requirements, and help you confirm your chances at winning the contract.
  • Start Right Away. As mentioned, matrices are usually associated with RFPs, which have hard deadlines. When a Recruiter tells you they need your information by a certain day, there is little to no flexibility. Therefore, start working on matching your experience to the requirements as quickly as possible.
  • Build Out Your Resume. Matrices actually provide a major competitive advantage in a job search because the client reveals exactly what they are looking for. Go through the matrix, item by item, and highlight all the relevant experience in your resume. If more detail is needed, tailor your experience in your resume and explain how you meet each requirement. Don’t be concerned if your resume becomes extremely long – the “2 to 5-page resume” advice doesn’t apply to RFP responses as the client is looking for as much detail as possible.
  • Quickly Cross-Reference to Your Resume. Number each contract or project in your resume for cross-referencing purposes. Without writing any content in the matrix, go through each item and refer to the project or contract in your resume where you have the relevant experience. Also include the length of time of each project or contract, to quickly see how well you qualify for this role, or if you’re coming up short against any of the requirements.

The Overall Secret to Completing a Skills Matrix

The best advice for completing a matrix is to focus on your resume. We often see candidates get fixated on that matrix and wanting to write specific explanations, but if those details are not backed-up in your resume, they will mean nothing. Instead, spend your time expanding on your experience in your resume. Even if you think a task is implied or too basic, if it will help prove you meet a requirement in the matrix, write about it in your resume. As long as you meet their deadlines, a good staffing agency will confirm you meet the requirements, polish your resume and develop the matrix to meet the client’s very stringent RFP response criteria. Matrices can be complex and seemingly impossible, but with the right staffing agency they shouldn’t be time-consuming or overwhelming.

Graphic Resumes for Technology Contractors?

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

Graphic Resumes for Technology Contractors?A recent article by Vladimir Popovic of Epic CV discusses the pros and cons of a graphic resume. Throughout the post, he brings up 10 positive reasons to consider a graphic resume, four downfalls and 5 risks. While I agree a graphic resume could be an interesting differentiator to grab a recruiter’s attention, I agree even more about the fifth risk he mentions at the end of the article — graphic resumes are industry-specific. And IT contracting is not included in that list of industries.

Of the four pitfalls Popovic lists, the first one stands out the most — “Graphic resumes are not meant for Applicant Tracking Systems.” It’s a fact that all major recruitment agencies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). It’s also a fact that to access the most job opportunities, independent technology contractors frequently work with recruitment agencies because they have already built relationships with large organizations and possibly earned Preferred Supplier status through a proposal process.  Consequently, if your resume isn’t easily readable in an applicant tracking system, it won’t be found by recruiters.

When you submit your resume to a staffing agency, it is put into a database that is searchable by recruiters and the ATS automatically scans the document for keywords to categorize your specialty areas. You may have applied to a specific contract opportunity and you’re now in the database. This means recruiters will find you while seeking to fill other positions for their clients. So, the recruiter is working to find you jobs and all you had to do was upload your resume. But, this only happens if your resume was ATS friendly — either a .doc or .pdf document, and originally created in a standard word processor, like MS Word. The staffing agency’s technology won’t be capable of reading your graphic resume and, even if it can, you’ll be lacking the detail required to categorize your resume… which leads to the next point.

In the Epic CV article, some of the pros provided by the author include “clearly shows information,” “highlights strengths,” and “graphic resumes are interesting.” This couldn’t be further from the truth if you’re an IT contractor. When recruiters and clients review your resume, they want to see all of your recent and relevant experience. In many cases, they put your resume beside the job description and, line-by-line, verify that you clearly explain and prove how you meet the requirements. A graphic resume that only highlights your strengths will not land you any gig worth bragging about. When recruiters screen resumes for IT contractors, they’re not seeking an interesting read, they’re seeking a qualified professional. Even the young recruiters — who Popovic seems to believe are all uneducated with no attention span and are “used to reading text and watching pictures” — will prefer a detailed resume that makes it easy to sell your skills to a client.

While graphic resumes are less than ideal when submitting to a recruiter for an IT contract, I do agree with a couple of the pros referenced in the article. A graphic resume will help you stand out and it could be a beneficial networking tool. Instead of a “graphic resume,” think of an infographic as a marketing tool. You would not you provide it when applying to a job, but instead, it would be a great leave-behind after an interview or when networking. That infographic is not going to be what gets you the job, but it will ensure somebody remembers you. And, when you’re top-of-mind to a recruiter, opportunities start pouring in.

How Recruiters Judge You before Your Resume

What an IT Contractor’s Email Address Tells a Recruiter Before They Even Read Their Resume

How Recruiters Judge You before Your ResumeA large part of a recruiter’s job is to judge people. That seems like a dream come true and quite natural for many people in this world, but recruiters have to strategically judge you. In addition to the basic math involved in reading your resume to see if your qualifications add up, they consider subtle details to see how you pay attention to detail, how professional you’ll be with clients, and how well you’ll interact with other IT professionals working on your project.

One of the first elements that a recruiter may notice is your email address. And if you have a back-and-forth email conversation with your recruiter, that personal branding element will continually appear in front of them.

An email address may seem like a trivial detail, but an article written by Jill Duffy at ITProPortal points out that it could speak volumes about who you are. According to Duffy, your address needs to follow 4 specific criteria:

  • Include Your Name in the Address: Your email address should include your name and, ideally, only your name. Try different combinations with initials, periods and hyphens until you find one that’s available. According to Duffy, you should avoid numbers at all costs, but if you must use one, keep it to a single digit.
  • Hosted by a Reputable Hosting Company: Free hosting services are fine as long as they are well-known ones such as Gmail or Yahoo, but also make sure it isn’t out-dated (Hotmail).
  • Do Not Use Your University or College Address: It’s great that you’re proud of the institution where you got your education, but it can send mixed messages to a recruiter. If the school is in a different city, they may question where you live, and they may also wonder if you’ve graduated yet.
  • Do Not Give Away Certain Information: It doesn’t matter how phenomenal you are at Dungeons & Dragons, DDExpert has no place in your address. Even if it’s related to your profession, for example JaneSQL@host.com, this isn’t advised. After all, maybe in 15 years, Jane won’t be interested in SQL jobs anymore. Similarly, Duffy says you should avoid birth years or locations in your address.

The complete post at ITProPortal goes into more detail and we recommend having a look if you’re interested in the topic. In the end, it’s important you see your email address from a recruiter’s eyes and when creating your email address, be in the mindset of creating it for life. This way recruiters, colleagues and clients can all contact you if they want to connect or need your services at any point in the future.

5 Things Recruiters Hate About Your Resume (Video)

For IT Contractors, recruiters are the gatekeepers of your employment destiny as they are the ones who read and evaluate your resume. If they like what they see, you’ll move on in the process; if not your hopes for that role are over and your jobs search starts over again. So, it is pretty important to tailor your resume to what they want to see.  This quick video shows you 5 things you absolutely must avoid having on your resume, under any circumstances, no matter what, if you want to keep your recruiter happy!

Contractor Quick Poll: Hearing from recruiters?

How do you prefer to get job opportunities from recruiters?

A couple years ago, we asked Eagle’s recruiters about their preferred method to be contacted by IT contractors and passed it on to help our readers understand the most successful ways to build a relationship with a recruiter. Not surprisingly, we learned that everybody has different preferences for being contacted, based on their time management and organization processes.

This month, we’re curious to learn more about technology independent contractors and how they prefer to be contacted by recruiters at staffing agencies regarding new opportunities. What’s your preference in most cases? Do you like to hear a voice so you can ask questions immediately? Would you rather an email with the details or a text with a brief overview? Do you like to be contacted on LinkedIn? Or would you prefer to do your own searching and reach out to the recruiter when you find something that interests you?

The 10 Best Fonts for Your Resume (Infographic)

Resume advice is one of the more popular topics on the Talent Development Centre. We provide IT contractors with many formatting tips and discuss content that you should (or shouldn’t) include in your technology resume, but we rarely go into specific design topics. After all, how important can the design of your resume be if it’s only going to be read by a computer anyway? Surely, computers don’t care how pretty something looks.

Although the chances are big that your resume will be screened by a computer before anyone else, if you’re qualified for an IT position, a recruiter will still end up looking at it… and they’re human. How your resume looks will affect a recruiter’s perception of you before they start to review your background and skills, even if it’s on a smaller, subconscious level. Therefore, it’s a good idea to put some thought into this and, the simplest way is to double-check the font you’re using.

Have a look at this infographic from Monster. You will probably find that you’re already using a proper font (note Comic Sans is not listed). If you’d like to stand out, you will also find some different fonts that are both appropriate and can give your resume a modern feel.

The 10 Best Fonts for Your Resume