Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Job Searching

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

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.

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.