Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Job Searching

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

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.

Quick Poll Results: How Many IT Contractors Lie on Their Resume?

We’ve been in the IT staffing industry for over 20 years now and if there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that most IT contractors are ethical and uphold high standards of honesty. An area we’ve seen some professionals slip, it’s when trying to sell themselves for a job where they don’t have the complete experience.

Whether or not we received honest answers is uncertain, but last month’s contractor quick poll asked independent contractors if they ever lied on their resume, or even stretched the truth a bit. The results are below and very promising for our industry. While a few admit that they may have stretched the truth a bit, nobody responded that they have completely made up experience.

Quick Poll Results: Have you ever lied on your resume?

Looking for Jobs? Have You Prepared Your Elevator Pitch?

Looking for Jobs? Have You Prepared Your Elevator Pitch?Grabbing somebody’s attention and easily explaining a product to them is the first step in any successful sales pitch. As such, sales professionals develop and polish an Elevator Pitch, a speech they can quickly blurt out to any potential client.  Not only does this makes the buyer know exactly what the product is, but also leaves them eager to learn more. As an IT contractor, you’re also always trying to sell your product (you) to your next client, so do you have an elevator speech prepared?

A few years ago we shared an infographic containing 5 simple steps to create your elevator pitch when searching for jobs. As helpful as it is, the design of infographics constrains the fine details so here is some additional information about elevator pitches, how independent contractors can create them for their technology consulting business, and best practices when delivering it.

What Is an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch is a 15-30 second summary or commercial about yourself, the premise being that 15-30 seconds is the time you have to get your point across in an average elevator ride. The ultimate goal is to explain to a recruiter, client, or colleague who you are, why you’re unique and what you can provide. Your elevator pitch comes in handy in multiple situations — job interviews, career fairs, voicemails, resume summaries and networking events.

How Job Seekers Can Create an Elevator Pitch

To achieve the best elevator pitch, you must plan it and improve it over time. Failure to do so can result in disaster. Especially when you’re nervous, an unprepared person can blurt out words out that they never imagined and will later regret. It’s not enough just to think about your elevator pitch, you also have to write it down… and practice it!

The first thing to remember while creating your elevator pitch is to keep it simple. Tell your story and paint a picture that perfectly describes you, but you don’t confuse or distract your listener with too many details. In it’s simplest form, your elevator speech should include your name, your field and what you provide. Depending on the situation, you can also include what you’re seeking, your goals, why they should care, and a request for action.

That’s right! Different situations mean you’ll need to prepare multiple elevator speeches. For example, when at a networking event and meeting somebody for the first time, it would be tacky to immediately jump into a sales pitch that tells your listener why they should hire you and where you’d like to go in your career. On the other hand, when an interviewer asks point blank “Why should we hire you?” they would welcome such a detailed response.

Giving Your Job Search Elevator Pitch

When the time comes to finally introduce yourself and deliver the work of art you’ve prepared, don’t blow it. The delivery is just as important as the preparation. Remember to smile, be confident and have energy. At the same time, though, relax and avoid talking too fast or rambling. Finally, have a business card prepared to hand out afterwards.

A solid elevator pitch is a crucial sales tool for every professional so if you don’t have one, we highly recommend you get started. If you have already created a successful speech, then we’d love to learn more about your process in creating it and what you do to shine above the others. Please share your tips in the comments below!

Google for Jobs Has Finally Made it to Canada!

Google Logo

Almost a year ago, Google changed the job search landscape in the United States when they launched Google for Jobs. Today, they finally launched in Canada and it may change the way you search for IT contracts.

Google for Jobs is exactly what it sounds like. In true Google fashion, all you need to do is search something like “Developer Jobs in Calgary” from the Google homepage and a window into their search results appears. When you click the “More Jobs” link, you’ll see that Google has scoured nearly every job board and website they could find to compile an extremely comprehensive list of current job postings.

When Google first announced the service, they made it clear that it was designed primarily to serve job seekers, as opposed to companies who are looking to hire. As such, the primary goal of the site is to enhance the job search experience as much as possible. A few features you may find are:

  • Intelligent search and filters, including matching categories and titles, employment type (contract or full-time), location and the date posted.
  • A simple mobile view of the job description with a link back to the original website
  • When available, snapshots into a company’s online reviews on sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed
  • The option to save jobs and create job alerts

It will be interesting to see how this service impacts Canadian job search trends over the coming months and years. Google works closely with all major job boards including Monster and LinkedIn, but its immediately clear that it is not coordinating with the giant job aggregator Indeed. Will it take over as the #1 job board in the world?  Given Google’s vast range of services, we should also be curious to see how it will integrate its other assets and applications into the job search. Only time will tell, but for now, check it out next time you’re on the hunt for an IT contract or full-time job.

Format and Save Your Resume for Recruiters, Not for You

Format and Save Your Resume for Recruiters, Not for YouYour resume is the first and most important tool in your job search. It’s the document that says everything about you and has to sell your experience to a recruiter or hiring manager if you want to hear back from them. The importance of that one electronic file is huge yet some people put so little time into it. Or worse, others commit hours on end to enhance their resume but ignore any advice provided by industry professionals.

Over the past few years, we shared resume formatting advice for independent contractors directly from recruiters, including some word-for-word statements. We even created an entire video series about formatting your resume in Microsoft Word. Still, with all of these resources, some IT contractors still fail to format their resume in a way that’s not only friendly to recruiters, but also to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs).

If our advice doesn’t get through to some people, then hopefully that of a N.Y. Times bestseller will. We recently came across this post on FastCompany by Martin Yate, author of  Knock ’em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide. He provides six tricks for formatting and saving your file before uploading it to a recruiter:

  • Consider the file name. “Resume.doc” says nothing where “Jane Smith – Project Manager – 2018.doc” tells a much better story and easy for recruiters to catch.
  • Add metadata into your file. Under the file menu in MS Word, you can choose summary info to insert keywords and terms. This will make your resume easier to find if recruiters are searching with Windows Search or Apple’s Spotlight.
  • Keep the header and footer clean. Older ATSs can’t read in there, so when you include details such as your contact information, it gets lost. Now recruiters won’t know your address and you’ll never appear in local searches.
  • Keep fonts standard. ATSs also don’t like surprises and will read your resume better with basic business fonts such as Times, Arial and Georgia.
  • Also keep bullets standard. Fancy arrows, dingbats and checkmarks can also mess up when coming through an ATS or just transferring to another computer. Stick to the basic bulleted formatting.
  • Have clear and descriptive headings. This one isn’t for the ATS as much as it is for the reader. Recruiters scan resumes all day and want to be able to quickly find the information they need to see.

What formatting tricks have you used to sneak past the pile of resumes and immediately get in front of a recruiter? Please share them with our readers in the comments below.

Stop Getting Spammed by Recruiters

We sometimes hear complaints from IT professionals who say they’re getting “spammed” by recruiters and staffing agencies. They fire back angry emails demanding to be removed from mailing lists and claiming they never signed up to receive such communications. In some cases, maybe these responses are warranted, but for the most part, great recruiters aren’t buying lists of email addresses and mass mailing a whole bunch of unqualified people who will never care about their job opportunity. That’s inefficient and doesn’t lead to results.

Recruiters are always building relationships with top candidates so they can quickly find somebody when an opportunity arises. In situations when a recruiter is trying to fill a role with hard-to-find talent, they need to get creative in searching for new professionals who will match the job description. That’s when they start calling and emailing people they may not know personally, but they’re still not contacting candidates randomly.

Why Are You Getting Unwanted Email from Recruiters?

If you receive an “unwanted” email from a recruiter then there’s probably a reason… and your past actions may have something to do with it.

If you’ve ever searched for a job, then it’s plausible that your name and resume are in a database somewhere — a database that recruiters use to seek out new talent. Not only do recruiters search their own agency’s database of past applicants, but many subscribe to databases of other online job boards like Monster, Indeed and CareerBuilder. When you apply to a job through any one of those websites, you are asked if your resume can be public. If you select Yes (or don’t select no), then recruiters have access to your resume. If you look awesome and a fit for their job, you can expect an email.

LinkedIn and other social networks are other sites where strategic recruiters search and are the cause of your surprise recruiter emails. According to Canada’s Anti-SPAM Legislation, if your email address is public, then you’ve provided consent to be contacted. Therefore, if you have a superb LinkedIn profile with an email address that’s visible to the public, then at some point, a recruiter is going to send you an email.

How Can You Avoid Unwanted Emails from Recruiters?

Based on the sources provided above, there are three very simple ways to reduce unwanted emails from recruiters:

  1. Read carefully when applying to any job and select the options that prevent your resume from being made publicly available or in a database. (You may also need to avoid specific job boards all together)
  2. Keep good track of where you apply to a job and return to those sources when your job search is complete to remove your resume and/or close your account.
  3. If you must publicize your email address, include a disclaimer clearly indicating who can and cannot email you. You could also go a step further and include this at the top of your resume that you’ve uploaded to a job board.

While this post is to help you prevent unwanted email, we still strongly encourage listening to and giving a recruiter a chance. Look into the person’s experience and their staffing agency’s track record and decide if a relationship with them could be beneficial down the road. You don’t have to be interested in the current job but if your contract is going to be up or if you may be considering something in the future, it’s never a terrible idea to have relationships with recruiters in your back pocket.

Building Your Resume to Respond to Government Matrices

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

Building Your Resume to Respond to Government MatricesDeciding to move into public sector IT contracting? One of the biggest challenges a contractor faces is getting their resume ready to respond to large RFPs and extensive government matrices.

Here are some guidelines to help with the process:

  1. You must have a detailed PROJECT description for every position you list in the resume. The project description should include:
    • The project type (transformation, migration, implementation, etc.) along with any main systems or main technologies used.
    • Describe what the goals/objectives are of that project. If applicable, discuss any project successes/failures
    • What was the team size?
    • What was the project budget?
    • Any other relevant information that can help to explain and understand the project.
  1. When you list your work experience, be sure to include the following information for each position:
    • Job Title (including the level)
    • Employer’s name and city
    • Duties and accomplishments
    • Supervisor’s name and phone number (this is particularly good to have when an RFP requests a reference for each project listed in the matrix)
    • Start and end dates (month AND year)
  1. It is often a requirement of an RFP response that you send supporting documentation, including proof of education, certifications or security clearance. It is always a good idea to keep a scanned copy of these documents ready to send if necessary.
  2. Organize your resume information. You may want to consider sub-headings for different flavors of your resume. This will allow you to add bullets to your resume easily for targeted matrix responses or remove bullet points or sub-headings from your resume if the experience is not relevant to that particular job posting.
  3. You should never submit a resume to a job posting without updating the responsibilities section of your resume. It is important that you demonstrate that you are qualified for the role and gear your resume updates toward demonstrating this. Review the qualifications of the job posting/matrix for the position you are targeting. By reviewing this it allows you to better understand which of your qualifications you should emphasize and elaborate on in the 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.
  4. Keywords, keywords, keywords. Look for Keywords, such as repeated verbs or technical terminologies that are listed in the job posting or matrix. Once you have identified these words then use them in your resume and more importantly provide proof that you have the experience by elaborating on the context of how you gained the experience. A good way to do this is to use numbers, provide examples and focus on the outcome of your activities to emphasize results.
  5. Update job titles frequently. You may need to change your job titles to better fit the job description, such as changing “Project Producer” to “Project Manager” or “Data Scientist” in a private-sector job to “Data Architect.”
  6. Go long. Federal resumes are always longer. Use as many pages as needed to provide a thorough review of your work and education. Be detailed and remember, you’re using your updated resume to make your case and prove that you’re the best fit for this job.  That being said, carefully open with your key qualifications and avoid losing your reader/qualifiers. You could also add a profile statement or qualifications summary to the top of your resume to highlight your most noteworthy and relevant accomplishments.
  7. Proof read your resume. Similar to other resumes, editing and reviewing is important. Not only are you outlining your qualifications but you are also submitting a writing sample. Proof read and edit the resume at least 3 times before submitting your resume for a job posting.

How New Grads Can Land a Job without a Resume

Most college and university students across Canada are either just finishing or will soon be starting their Reading Week/Winter Breaks. Especially for those close to graduating and looking to get ahead of their peers, that means preparing for a competitive job search and maybe even sending out some applications.

The first step in any job search is creating a great resume that will grab the attention of employers and perfectly describe your skills and abilities. There are countless sources to help you write that resume — just last week we shared a video providing some fresh resume tips for 2018. What we often don’t talk about is how to search for a job without a resume.

This video from jobposting.ca provides 3 tips to find your next job without a resume, specifically for new grads who are just entering the job market. If you know anybody starting out their job search, you may help them reduce their stress level just by forwarding them this post. Or, if your career requires a detailed resume, these tips are perfect to supplement your job search any time.

Write a Resume to Grab a Gold Fish’s Attention

As technology advances, people spend more time attached to their devices checking social media, email, calling, reading news, etc. and this is all between having conversations and exchanges with actual human beings. The result is smaller and smaller attention spans that make a gold fish look focused!

Similar to most professionals, recruiters are also guilty of having the attention span of a gold fish. They work with so many technologies and tools that getting them to pay close attention to your resume can prove to be challenging. This video from Professor Heather Austin provides 6 tips you can apply to your resume that will make it more likely to grab and keep a recruiter’s attention:

  1. Have a clear message
  2. Include a branding profile (also known as Personal Summary)
  3. Focus on the Top Half
  4. Highlight Your Accomplishments
  5. Make it Relevant
  6. Place Emphasis on the Format

What Makes a Client Hire Quickly… or Take Forever to Decide? (And Why Independent Contractors Should Care)

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

What Makes a Client Hire Quickly or Take Forever to Decide? (And Why Independent Contractors Should Care)Many factors impact just how quickly a company will progress through the hiring process.  Having a sound understanding of the speed of hiring can help a contractor immensely.  For example, if you are on contract and your assignment will be wrapping up, knowing how long the hiring process will take ensures you begin earnestly looking for your next “gig” at the correct time – not so soon that a new offer comes in before you’ve fully completed your assignment; and not so late as to have an uncomfortable gap in your work and income.

Having multiple offers in hand is a great scenario for a contractor but having multiple interviews on the go and one mediocre offer in hand is a little more difficult to manage.  Do you turn down the offer in the hope that one of the better interviews results in some business?  After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  Having a solid understanding of the timelines involved may help you to determine whether you can wait to provide your acceptance of the present offer or whether you need to jump at what you’ve got for certain.

The following is a list of factors that lengthen or shorten the hiring cycle and why:

  • Reason for hire: Is the company initiating a brand-new project?  If so, there could be delays in the process.  Or are they replacing a key person within an ongoing project?  This could indicate a need for someone very quickly.
  • Interview Process: How many interviews will be required as part of the client’s hiring process.  It isn’t uncommon for some companies to have one interview and make an offer.  However, some clients like to have multiple interviews before settling on their candidate of choice.
  • Market conditions: When supply of contractors is robust vs. the demand for work, we often see companies taking more time to make a hiring decision.  The opposite is also true… tight labour markets mean that qualified contractors need to be snapped up more quickly or risk losing them to another company.
  • Complexity of the job description: Some customers ask for a “shopping list” of qualifications and experience that is so long that no-one exists with everything that they want. These clients need to scale back their “must-haves” and will begin interviewing the candidates that have portions of what they desire.  These customers are often slow to make a hire, hoping that some unicorn-candidate will magically become available.
  • Number of candidates being considered: If a company interviews 2 or 3 potential candidates, they tend to make quicker decision than companies who interview 7 or 8 or more.
  • Motivation of the hiring manager (or lack thereof): Deadlines, looming vacations, competing priorities all factor into the level of urgency hiring managers will have.
  • Level of bureaucracy: Some companies have an extensive internal hiring process that require levels of approvals and sign-offs that can drag offers out for weeks.
  • Dynamism of the environment: Many corporations have a very fluid environment, where programs and projects are continually in flux.  Timing of hiring is often impacted when this occurs as they attempt to coordinate the entry of the new contractor(s).  Depending on the situation, this could speed up the hiring process or slow it down.
  • Timing of other, similar projects in the local market: Projects may be delayed or fast-tracked based on other projects of a similar nature either starting up or winding down elsewhere in town.  For example, if there are a number of simultaneous SAP projects already in-flight in the local market, a company wishing to start one of their own may delay their hiring to coincide with one of these other projects winding down.  The opposite can also be true… back when everyone had a Windows 7 implementation in their plans, the companies who moved fastest to hire/build their teams were able to acquire the cream of the crop… they were motivated to move quickly.

These are just some of the things that can impact the speed at which an offer is made.  Be sure to ask your recruiter about these the next time they speak with you about a new opportunity and you will understand the issues at play – the better the information that you collect, the better your decision making will be.