Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Job Searching

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

What to Do When You Lose Out on a Contract

The nature of IT contracting means that throughout your profession, you’re going to inevitably experience rejection. It’s not uncommon to work closely with a recruiter and meet with clients in an extensive interview process, only to find out you didn’t win the work. Especially for those new to the technology contracting space, this can be disheartening and discouraging. Those who have been around the block a few times know that how you react to such rejection plays a role in how your career will shape out. Here are a few things to do when you don’t win the contract you were hoping to get:

  1. Confirm the Opportunity is Closed. Let’s take a step back. Do you know for sure that you didn’t get the job or are you assuming so because you haven’t heard anything recently. Some clients, especially in the public sector, have a long evaluation process. It’s possible nobody, including your recruiter, has heard anything yet.
  2. Ask Questions. And do it promptly. As soon as you learn that the contract was awarded to somebody else, pick up the phone to your recruiter and start digging into reasons why. Try to get feedback from both the recruiter’s perspective and the client’s. Specific questions could be:
  • Was the contract awarded to someone else? (see #1)
  • What was the decision based on? (provide examples to help pry for details — price, qualifications, fit, etc.)
  • How can I improve for future opportunities? (interview performance, qualifications or training, soft skills)
  • What was the one thing I did best?
  • Are there any other open roles I’d be better suited for?
  1. Review Your References. You may get a signal based on your recruiter’s feedback that your references weren’t as shining as you’d hoped. In this case, review the names you’re providing and ensure that you are clear on the information they’re sharing with recruiters and clients.
  2. Self-Reflect. Take the feedback you receive and combine it with what you already know (practice self-awareness and be honest with yourself). Could you have been better prepared? Are you applying to jobs out of your league? Could you have been more personable?
  3. Act on the Results. It’s one thing to know what you must do but it’s another thing to actually do it. Using the feedback you receive, read through your resume, social networks and personal website to make improvements. Also review your skills and create a training plan based on gaps.
  4. Continue to Build Relationships. Just because your recruiter wasn’t able to help you land this contract, it doesn’t mean they will not have opportunities in the future. Keep working with them (and others) and ensure lines of communication remain open to build relationships and find new opportunities.
  5. Stay Positive. Negativity is a downward spiral that brings nothing productive. The right attitude is crucial in a successful job search and the opposite will quickly spread and make people much less likely to want to work with you.

Whatever your reaction to a lost contract opportunity, never burn bridges. This can happen much more easily than you might think. Letting pride get in the way, refusing any responsibility and blaming the recruiter, or pushing to change a final decision can all affect how willing your staffing agency is to present you for an opportunity in the future.

How do you deal with lost contract opportunities? Do you have a specific process, do you ignore them all together, or do react based on each situation? We’d love to hear your feedback and experiences. Please share them in the comments below.

Do These 5 Things Before You Even Apply to Your Next IT Contract

If your job search strategy consists of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks… and very little is sticking, then it’s time to re-vamp your way of thinking. Applying to multiple jobs with little thought or preparation is not just aggravating to recruiters but you’re wasting your own time as well. Rather than taking an “Apply and Pray” approach to finding your next gig, take a step back and review these five items Dice suggests an IT professional should do before applying to their next freelance opportunity:

Build Up an Online Reputation

Believe it or not, Recruiters have access to the Internet. And they know how to use it. Yes, an Internet-based job like a Web Designer should have a portfolio, but those seeking offline jobs also need an online presence. Recruiters always look beyond a resume to learn what others think of you and if it matches what you say in your resume. When you consciously build up your online reputation, you control the narrative!

Create a List of Verifiable References

The keyword here is verifiable. IT contractors have a different challenge finding great references compared to those in permanent positions. You don’t have the luxury of a long-term relationship with a manager who will remain at their company for a number of years. Instead, your top references could be other contractors who move around and lack the fancy title. You’re also in an industry where the landscape changes fast, so that valuable reference from five years ago may not be able to speak to your skills on a newer technology. When you build a relationship with a credible professional, add them to an on-going list of potential references. Organize that list based on experience and maintain it to keep it up-to-date with current contact information.

Make Sure Your Expectations Align with Reality

In this section, Dice suggests doing some homework to get a solid understanding of the workload, deadline structure and pay to ensure it matches your own needs. This may require a phone call to the recruiter working on the role, but your 5 minute discussion will be well worth your time compared to the hours you spend customizing your resume. Another piece of reality to align is whether or not you are the right fit for the job. In this article we found on The Muse, the author suggests you ask yourself not just if your skills match those requested, but also if your goals match the position and if the client’s culture and workspace fit with your ideal working conditions.

Research the Client

When you work through a recruiter, you have two clients — the staffing agency and the end client — and it’s wise to research both. First, always know what you’re up against before you start working with any recruiter. There are many criteria on which to evaluate an employment agency and how you weigh each one is your personal choice. What’s important is that you’re working with a recruiter you trust. Knowing the end-client is equally as important. For example, if they’re on the list of tech companies most likely to cause burnout or if they have a terrible reputation in how they treat independent contractors, then the higher rate may not be worth your pain.

Understand the Hiring Standards

Finally, Dice warns freelancers that they should not to assume that hiring standards are more relaxed for independent contractors versus full-time employees. A quick contract does not mean your recruiter or client will skip due diligence. Expect that they will conduct detailed reference checks, run background checks, and hold you under a magnifying glass before extending that final contract offer.

What kind of job seeker are you? Do you take similar steps before sending your resume (if so we’d love to hear them) or do you apply for everything that looks like it could be interesting (if so, we’d love to hear if it’s successful). Regardless, share your comments below!

The Most Effective Way to Apply to Jobs

A lot of effort goes into an effective job search. Searching for the best jobs, networking through companies and preparing resumes are all labour intensive and require significant amounts of time. Once you’re prepared, submitting the actual application is quick and easy; however, it should still receive as much attention as any other step. After all, you’ve done all that work, why waste it by being careless during a company’s online application process?

The simple action of applying to a job is not complicated but failing to pay attention to the details could cost you an interview. These simple items help you stand out when you submit a job application online:

  • Ensure you definitely qualify. Review that job description once more to guarantee that you meet the absolute must-haves of the job. This includes a willingness to work at the location. If you’re not willing to move and they want you in their city, then don’t bother applying.
  • Review the name of your resume file. Naming your resume “Resume.doc” is not very helpful to a recruiter looking at multiple files. At the minimum, include your name in the filename. It’s also wise to include your title and the date it was last modified.
  • Provide multiple contact options. As much as a good recruiter will always contact you in your preferred manner, there are always exceptions. Give them as many options as possible if they need to speak with you immediately — email, phone, cell phone (are you open to texting?), and LinkedIn are all helpful.
  • Complete all requested fields. Staffing agency job boards often ask for additional information to help keep their records up-to-date and match you with future opportunities. Even when it’s not mandatory, it’s a good practice to complete all fields. This helps you appear in future searches and recruiters will call you as job opportunities arise.
  • Avoid Creating Multiple Profiles. We see this happen often at Eagle. Candidates start using a new email address and end up creating a separate profile under their new address. The result is duplicate profiles in a database, which will cause confusion and you may miss out on future opportunities.
  • Save Information from Your Applications. Tracking all of your job applications means you can follow-up later and know the status of all jobs. Specific details you’ll want to reference when following-up with a recruiter include: Job Title, an ID number associated with the posting, the location, and the date it was posted.
  • Follow-Up… but be Realistic. Speaking of following-up, we always recommend it. If anything, it gets you in contact with a recruiter and helps you network. That said, be realistic about it. Following up hours after applying does not give a recruiter enough time to review all applicants and you will not get a good response. You should also avoid following up too frequently and keep in mind that it’s not worth arguing when you don’t receive a favourable answer.
  • Save and Return Later. Finally, there are going to be situations when you want to apply to a job but don’t have time to complete all of these suggestions. That’s OK. Save the job information and the application then return to complete the details at a more convenient time.

As the old saying goes “A job (application) worth doing is worth doing right.” The more you pay attention to detail and provide the right information, the easier you make the job of a recruiter, and the more likely you are to get that interview.

How Recruiters Know (or just think) You’re Lying

Experienced recruiters have talked to thousands of professionals throughout their careers. They get to meet great people and see hundreds of successful careers flourish, and they also see plenty of stunts by job seekers who will go to any extent to land a job. So naturally, recruiters who have been working with IT contractors for years are certain to catch the sneaky liars quite quickly. Unfortunately, it also means that they’re more skeptical of everyone. Even if you’re an ethical, honest professional, if you unintentionally raise a recruiter’s red flag, they may think you’re lying and proceed with caution, making your job search that much more difficult.

To avoid being falsely categorized as a sketchy candidate, it’s helpful to understand the basic signs recruiters use to identify unethical independent contractors. You’ll notice that it is easy to accidentally make these common mistakes and it could be the reason some recruiters are hesitant to follow-up on your recent job application.

Inconsistencies Between Your Resume and LinkedIn

Every recruiter is going to do at least some preliminary research before calling you in for an interview. This will, no doubt, include a look at your LinkedIn profile. In conjunction with reviewing your skills, projects and connections, they’re going to put your resume beside it to see if everything matches up. For many people, LinkedIn is a profile that you set-up quickly with little thought and then ignore for a while. Now consider how much effort goes into your resume, where you may provide more details, different titles, and additional experiences. While neither your online profile nor your resume is wrong, the differences cause a recruiter to ask some questions.

Inconsistencies Between Different Resumes

If you’ve submitted multiple resumes to a staffing agency over the years, you can be sure that your recruiter is reviewing your version from a few years ago as well. It’s impossible to change the past, so when they see that your education differs, time in a specific role got longer, or titles somehow changed, your credibility will start to dwindle. Especially in a tough job market, stretching the truth on your resume can be tempting. And while these little white lies do not make you unqualified or a bad person, they will hurt your chances hearing back from a recruiter.

Your Resume Looks Fake

Believe it or not recruiters receive a ton of fake, spammy resumes from people who want to get through the hiring process and make as much money as possible before they get figured out. The resumes are usually fabricated by the same people and need to be conspicuous enough to fool professionals, so they look extremely generic/templated and share many of the same traits. For example, fake resumes usually only include a simple Gmail address without any phone number or street address. The experience is also with large organizations scattered across North America, making it harder to verify. If you’ve engaged with a resume writing agency to help prepare your work or if your resume’s content naturally contains these symptoms, we recommend adding a personal touch with some explanations to avoid going directly into the burn pile.

There are Gaps in Your Resume

Perhaps you were travelling, took parental leave, required time for your health, or any other number of legitimate reasons to have a gap in your resume. To the skeptical recruiter, no matter how much they want to give you the benefit of the doubt, they wonder what you’re hiding. Did you work on a terrible project that was a disaster? Were you fired and don’t want the recruiter to know? As much as your personal reasons are none of a recruiter’s business, unless you help clarify the gaps in your resume, they’re going to make assumptions which may or may not be in your favour.

Your Story Changes

Ensure you carefully review your resume and everything you say you did, when you did it and how you did it. When a recruiter is interviewing (interrogating?) you in person, they may ask questions to catch some lies. Any inconsistencies in the story on your resume and the story you tell them will catch their attention. Even if the interviewer doesn’t see an inconsistency between your resume and your interview, it could be revealed when they call your reference. Especially when nervous, it’s easy to accidentally tell a story or explain a situation with details that aren’t accurate, which is why it’s always important to take a minute and think before answering any question.

There is nothing worse for a recruiter than an IT contractor who’s lied about their experience. Every recruiter has a dreadful story or two about that contractor who made it to onto a client’s site without half the qualifications they claimed. It does not take long for the client to recognize, the contractor is quickly fired, and the recruiter is left to pick up the pieces. It’s no wonder all recruiters are a little bit apprehensive when they see any discrepancies during the recruitment and hiring process.

Considering a Career in IT? Don’t Let Your Age Stop You

“There’s no time like the present!” — that inspirational cliché is used around the world and can be applied to any topic… and it’s true! It’s never to late to start something new, including a career in technology.

There’s a myth that unless you’ve been immersed in tech from a young age, you’ll never understand it enough to build a solid career in the industry. According to Dice, that is a straight-up lie and anyone, even those over 30, can start or reboot a career in tech. Naturally, it will not be easy and you will have more hurdles than the IT professional who jumped from high school immediately to post-secondary education in the field and then right to the workforce.

Here are 5 tips Dice provides for anybody who wants to start a career in tech, but later in the game:

  1. Know Your Stuff: Begin by focusing on a specific language and the major frameworks supporting it, and also be able to prove that you’re not a “one-trick pony”.
  2. Network: Start digitally by following developers with careers you aspire to, then find local people in tech and attend their meet-ups. Remember to be positive and keep in mind that the tech community is small.
  3. Have an Online Tech Presence: Be easy to find on places like LinkedIn, as well as sites such as GitHub and Stack Overflow. Don’t underestimate the power of a blog!
  4. Take Side Projects: Get into the Gig economy by taking on a few extra jobs, but keep in mind you may need to undercut your price when starting out, especially if you use sites like Upwork.
  5. Accept the Tech Elephant in the Room: Ageism is real and you’ll need to deal with it head-on. Prove your skills and ability, but also be honest about your age and what prompted you to start so late.

Like many, you may have stopped at point #1 — what specific language or framework should you learn? Fortunately, Dice has you covered there in a separate article they wrote last Spring where they provide the best programming languages to learn first:

  1. Python
  2. JavaScript
  3. C#
  4. Swift
  5. Java

Dice believes that these are not only the easiest languages to learn but are also in high enough demand that you’ll get a job. Each also has specific uses, so it’s worth exploring which one interests you as an individual and working from there.

We hope this article has helped motivate you as well as give you a few tips if you’re looking to get into the IT industry but have been concerned about your age. If you’re already an experienced developer, please take a minute to share this with a friend who may be looking for a career change. It may be the best thing you’ve ever done for them!

Applying to Government IT Jobs: 8 Things to Expect Will be Different from the Private Sector

If your independent contracting career has predominately been serving clients in the private sector and you’re considering moving into government, then read this article carefully because what has worked for you in the past will not work well when searching for jobs in the public sector. Especially if you’re moving into a “government town” like Ottawa or Edmonton, it’s important to know what you should expect when trying to land a contract with a government client.

  1. Expect RFPs

Government procurement processes are in place to ensure fair and transparent purchasing decisions and that holds true when they’re hiring IT contractors. Before we even hear about the opportunity, you can be sure that the job has been reviewed by many departments and requirements have been edited so it all fits into one fair (sometimes confusing) Request for Proposal. The good news is that when you work with a staffing agency, they will comb through the document, filter out the legalese, and give you what you need to know to apply.

  1. Expect Black and White

Due to the nature of RFPs and the government’s obligation to remain fair and transparent, you need to be aware that every decision is black and white. There is no such thing as wiggle room when responding to government bids — 5 years of experience is not 4 years, 11 months… it’s at least 5 years.

  1. Expect Grids and Matrices

How do government evaluators ensure they’re seeing all responses consistently and evaluating fairly? With grids (sometime referred to as matrices) that can get to be long and complicated. These tables allow for a simple cross reference between the requirements and resume so it’s easy to check off who will move onto the next round and who will be dumped. Grids have both mandatory and point-rated requirements and a failure to clearly demonstrate that you meet their minimum threshold is automatic disqualification. If you’re not prepared to put some effort into a grid, then a recruiter is not likely to consider you for government jobs.

  1. Expect Longer Resumes

Everything you write in a grid to prove your experience must be substantiated in your resume. This means that you can throw the old “2 page resume” rule out the window. If it takes 50 pages to create a resume that clearly demonstrates all of your relevant experience, then so be it. Content is a must.

  1. Expect Strict Rates

Past experience isn’t the only strict, black and white requirement the government insists on. Before being invited to provide IT resources, all suppliers (staffing agencies, individuals, consulting companies) must first get onto a pre-approved vendor list. During that process, they often have to provide a maximum bill rate and charging anything higher is unacceptable. When a recruiter tells you that their hands are tied and they can’t go any higher with the rate, they’re probably not bluffing and are contractually obligated to remain at that number.

  1. Expect Hard Deadlines

You should be noticing a trend at this point that government RFPs for IT contractors are quite regimented and there is no deviating from what they want. Submission deadlines are no different. Nearly every RFP you come across will include an exact submission deadline (ex. 2:00pm on a specific day). Even being 1 minute late could result in disqualification, demonstrating how much more important it is to meet all deadlines provided to you when working on an application to a government IT contract.

  1. Expect Security Clearances

Primarily in Federal Government, if you want to work, you’re going to need security clearance at some level. It may be as simple as Reliability Status, which just requires a short background check, or as high as Top Secret Clearance, which will ask for your history over the past 10 years, plus information about your immediate family, to do a complete review involving both the RCMP and CSIS. Depending on the clearance level and your personal history, this can take anywhere from 2 weeks to more than 2 years!

  1. Expect Long Wait Times

“Hurry up and wait.” That’s how you may feel after you’ve worked overtime updating your resume, spent hours working with a recruiter to perfect a grid, and rushed through the security clearance application forms. Because after your agency finally submits the proposal, getting a response from the government can take months. While some departments will have results back in weeks, it’s not unusual for other departments to spend much more time evaluating. This is usually due to the many responses they receive as well as their commitment to a thorough and fair evaluation process to ensure tax payer money is being spent wisely.

Working in the public sector is definitely a different experience than private and the application process ensures job seekers are aware of that early-on. Still, IT contractors who live it every day will tell you that it remains a good industry with plenty of opportunity, you just have to know your way around.

If you’re considering moving into the government as a next step in your IT contracting profession, we recommend starting today. Get in touch with your preferred recruiter to begin security clearances and to learn about new opportunities. Remember, even if you apply to a job this month, it may be another six months before the work begins.

 

The Reasons that Clients Give for Rejecting Great Candidates

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

As recruiters we are often surprised when a candidate, who we thought was perfect for a role, is rejected for an opportunity that they were well suited for.

There have been several previous posts that we have shared providing interview tips and tricks, but in this post I wanted to share some specific feedback that we have received from clients. Keeping these important things in mind will hopefully help you to be successful in your next interview.

They were all over the map

We’ve heard this described in many different ways: “They rambled or they went on and on or they went way off track.” One of the things that I coach everyone on, even the most senior of candidates, is to try and keep things concise. It’s common in an interview situation when nerves are a bit rattled to want to talk. And talk. And talk. An interviewer will often take a moment or two to capture information that you have shared, but don’t take that silence to mean that you should keep talking. The best advice is to answer a question in a clear and concise manner – and stop talking. If the interviewer doesn’t respond (and therefore seems to be looking for more), ask “Would you like me to expand on that?” OR “Would you like me to share a specific example?” If you answer a question and then go off on an unrelated tangent, the interview is as good as over.

They didn’t explain their experience well

We often hear that candidates weren’t successful in explaining their experience in a relatable way. It’s helpful to refer to the STAR method when preparing for an interview. Although this format is normally recommended for behavioural-based interview questions, it’s a great way to be sure you are highlighting all aspects of relevant experience in relation to a question. Speaking at a high level and giving vague answers rather than highlighting specific projects, experiences or accomplishments does not tend to bode well, and will leave any interviewer rushing to finish the interview. Be prepared with specifics and have some key project examples jotted down that you can quickly refer to – don’t assume that you will be able to recall them during the interview.

They shared too much

We hear this feedback often and have to wonder what people are thinking when they share too much personal information in a job interview. I once had an employee tell a prospective employer that they had started contracting because of personal debt, and then proceeded to give a number! This can also include speaking poorly of a previous employer, which is never a good idea. If you are trying to explain a gap in employment or a reason for leaving a role, keep it fairly high level, don’t come off as defensive, and maintain your professionalism at all times. If you are tempted to share that your wife left you, your dog died, or your uncle was in jail – write a country song instead.

A good recruiter will help you prepare for an interview and share some insight into what to expect to help you best prepare, but it’s up to you to use and keep the above feedback in mind. If you use common sense and exude professionalism you are sure to land the job!

 

The Latest Resume Tips and Trends for IT Contractors

Your resume is your IT contracting business’s number one marketing tool. When optimized, that is the document that will make a recruiter want to meet you as soon as possible or a client eager to hire you before sitting down for an interview. Given its importance, we like to keep you up-to-date on the latest trends and tips from resume writing professionals around the world. Here is a summary of some of the latest advice we’ve come across:

Highlight Skills Above all Else

It seems obvious that your resume should include your skills, but a recent article from Dice emphasizes how important a skills-based resume is. Referencing studies from HackerRank and Montage, the article highlights some key takeaways when writing your resume:

  • Recruiters and hiring managers prioritize experience, specifically how long an IT contractor has been working in a discipline.
  • Education such as degrees is at the bottom of the priority list of those evaluating tech resumes. They’re more interested in your deep history of personal objects and direct understanding of languages and frameworks.
  • More and more companies are hiring based specifically on skills, as seen in the rise of skills assessments and predictive analytics to determine who’s best suited for a position.
  • A list of side projects and proof you know your stuff will make your resume more attractive.

Links in Your Resume are Great, But Do Them Right

The Muse published a fantastic answer about links in resumes and it’s too good not so share. When Alyse Kalish asked career coach and job search expert Clatyon Wert if it was alright, Wert’s response was “It’s acceptable to use links in your resume, cover letter, or any form of the job application—assuming you’re submitting it online. I’m of the belief that 90% of applications are now online, and you should be adding links to your portfolio, your LinkedIn page, and possibly more depending on your industry and the type of work that you’ve done. It’s best to put as much out there as possible when applying to jobs, because attention is everything in the job search.

Wert also provided some extra tips for adding links correctly:

  • Link your proudest and best work, as well as projects related to which you’re applying
  • Use hyperlinks on keywords rather than an entire URL strand
  • If you must use an entire link (ex. Print documents), shorten it using tools like bit.ly
  • If you have a large list of potential links, create a separate portfolio or website
  • Place links in the header or beside your contact info
  • Test all links to ensure they work

Take Extra Care in Proof-Reading

Proof-reading your resume to avoid embarrassing mistakes is not a new trend, but this article from Grammarly has some unique tips for proof-reading (and they can be applied to more than just resumes!):

  • Take a break between the time you finish writing and start proof-reading
  • Print it out or change the font to view it differently
  • Read your work aloud to spot misspellings and repeated words
  • Use your finger to move along and force yourself to slow down
  • Keep a list of mistakes you make often
  • Pay special attention to titles, headings and lists which are often overlooked
  • Double check prepositions you aren’t sure about

Naturally, Grammarly also recommends trying their product to help edit.

How’s your resume been working for you lately? Have you tried any innovative techniques that are landing your more interviews with IT recruiters and hiring managers? If so, we want to hear about them! Please share your experience and tips in the comments below.

Job Hunting – The Devil is in the Details

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Job Hunting - The Devil is in the DetailsThey say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression and there is so much truth to that in the hiring process.  While there are a lot of different ways that a job seeker can differentiate themselves from the pack when applying for roles, one surprising differentiator is an attention to detail.

In the past 20 years, I have seen some great resumes, some terrible resumes and a lot that fall somewhere in between.  I once had a client compare receiving a resume to going on a first date and it was a comparison that I have never forgotten… one would never go on a first date without a little extra effort, so it stands to reason that we should do the same to impress a potential client or employer.

Here are a few quick tips to craft a great first impression through the application process:

  1. Avoid Senseless Mistakes– review your resume for typos, grammatical errors and inconsistent tense. When hiring managers receive a high number of applicants, often the first round of candidates to be eliminated are those that don’t make a great first impression because of grammar or spelling errors.
  2. Follow the Application Instructions– instructions in a posting are the first step in the evaluation process and small “traps” are often included to catch people who might “skim”.  If you are asked for a cover letter, produce one.  It will be used to evaluate both your written communication skills AND your ability to follow instructions.
  3. Customize Your Resume– focus on the role that you are interested in and match the relevant details in your resume to the job posting, but don’t duplicate the job posting.  The author of the job posting wants to see your experience and professionalism – they do not want to see their work plagiarized.
  4. Fact Check– make sure everything on your resume is accurate.  If you share any links (portfolio, websites, LinkedIn, etc), make sure they work as expected. Also, keep in mind that background, employment and education verifications are very common – in addition to traditional references.
  5. Google Yourself– you should expect that you will be searched at some point in the hiring process and often it is earlier than you think.  Do you need to clean up your social profile or adjust privacy settings?

Once your resume lands you the interview, here are some tips on how to knock the interview out of the park.

IT Contractors Should Take an SEO Approach to Writing a Resume

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science that digital marketers in all industries use to maximize their presence on top search engines, like Google. They use a variety of tools and strategies to ensure the content on their website is of top quality and the topic is clear to the search engines. The more a search engine trusts that page to answer a user’s question, the more likely it is to display a website at the top of the results.

When searching for candidates, nearly all staffing agencies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that scours through a database containing thousands of resumes. It uses intelligent algorithms to read through the content and return the candidates who best match a specific search — much like Internet search engines. So, if you want to get to the top of a recruiter’s search when they look for IT contractors with your skillset, then doesn’t it make sense to apply the same strategies a digital marketer uses to make their website appear at the top of a relevant search?

Perhaps the oldest but still extremely relevant SEO tactic is the use of keywords. Marketers plant relevant keywords and variations of them throughout their content and you should do the same with your resume. Continuously writing a specific skill throughout your experience or ensuring all of the titles in your past experience match what a recruiter would search will help boost your profile to the top of ATS results.

There are of course best-practices to adding keywords. When digital marketers fail to follow them, they quickly suffer negative results. The same can happen to an IT contractor who doesn’t properly think it through with their resume. A recent post on Recruiter.com by James Hu, the CEO of Jobscan, provides five types of keywords that will hurt your resume’s search results:

  1. Too-Soft Soft Skills: The generic, cliché keywords that mean nothing, nor separate you from others (ex. Hard Working and Team Player).
  2. Keyword Variations: Yes, above we mention that digital marketers use variations of keywords throughout their content, which helps capture the different ways people search. But search engines are intelligent enough to recognize all of these variations and connect them with different searches. Unfortunately, many Applicant Tracking Systems are not, meaning if you type “Project Managed” and the recruiter searches “Project Manager”, you may not appear.
  3. Almost Right Keywords: Again, Applicant Tracking Systems’ minimal intelligence compared to a large search engine means they don’t recognize your spelling mistakes. While your entire resume should be spellchecked, pay careful attention that your keywords are spelled correctly.
  4. Not-True-at-All Keywords: Unethical digital marketers stuff keywords onto irrelevant pages to get results. While this worked in the early years of SEO, search engines quickly caught on and blacklist these websites. Recruiters will do the same if you start putting keywords in that don’t even apply to your experience. It goes back to some of the best advice we can give: don’t lie on your resume.
  5. Out-on-an-Island Keywords: These keywords aren’t lies, but they do water down your relevance. Ensure the bulk of your content is related to the job to which you’re applying. A recruiter searching for a Business Intelligence Specialist probably won’t be running a search for “Horseback Riding” so you’re safe to remove that hobby from your resume. We promise.

We recently provided some additional resume tips for formatting and saving your resume to end up at the top of a recruiter’s search, and more specifically, to succeed in being found for government IT job opportunities. Do you strategically add keywords to your resume or take any other measures to ensure you end up at the top of a recruiter’s search? If not, you could be missing out on top IT contract opportunities.