Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Job Searching

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

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.

A Job Search Strategy for Your Generation

Everybody has a different job search strategy that depends on their situation. Your location, target clients, preferred agencies and overall comfort with the medium are all variables that affect how your job search will look compared to the IT contractor sitting beside you.

According to a recent article from Recruiting Blogs, your generation also plays a role in how you seek out opportunities. They claim you should adjust your process to what’s most comfortable for you, rather than what the trends say you should do. Obviously they make many generalizations, but here are a few job search tips for each generation:

  • Baby Boomers: Keep up with times, be flexible and active. You have the most experience and potential, so have the enthusiasm to work and submit your resume in whichever format you feel makes most sense.
  • Generation-X: Take the time to find the job that is suitable to your lifestyle, it is possible, If being interviewed by a Millennial, they’ll want to see your enthusiasm and passion. Baby Boomers may be set-off if they feel your values do not align with theirs, so prepare your answers carefully.
  • Millennials: Millennials need to ruin the stereotype often associated with the generation. Do this with an outstanding CV and personality, emphasizing flexibility, tech skills and teambuilding abilities.

In general, Recruiting Blogs also recommend that to be successful in a job search, people from all generations should:

  • Combine online and offline job searches
  • Expand your network
  • Gather all documentation
  • Send thank you notes after the interview

How do you think your job search differs from those in other generations? Have you consciously changed strategies or decided to go against the trends and seen more success? We’d love to learn more about your job search strategy in the comments below.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Do contractors expect more opportunities?

Will you be back on the market at any point in 2018? If so, how easy do you think it will be to land your next gig? That’s the question we asked independent contractors last month in the Contractor Quick Poll.

The poll asked contractors across Canada who specialize in different roles and industries, so naturally it provides an average that may not be exact to your situation. That said, if 2018 turns out to be how our readers have predicted so far, then we’re in for a great year! How do you feel about the coming year?

What’s your outlook on contract opportunities in your field over the next 12 months?

Be More Competitive with Certifications

Most IT contractors understand the importance of certifications in their profession. Having certifications and keeping them up-to-date ensures that recruiters and clients trust you and your abilities, and immediately puts your qualifications ahead of others without certifications.

A recent IT World Canada article explored the importance of certifications, specifically when it comes to cyber security. They offer three strong arguments for obtaining a certification and we would agree they move beyond just cyber security and are relevant for any certification:

  • The certification gets you to the shortlist
  • A certification is a quick way to fill gaps in an employee’s skill set
  • Certifications can indicate strengths and passion

There are plenty of certifications available and to receive each one would be nearly impossible, given time and cost factors. Instead, IT professionals should choose based on which ones fit their career path as well as which hold the most clout in the industry. According to Glass Door, there are 14 certifications that impress recruiters most – 11 that are role-specific and 3 software certifications. They may not all fit for Information Technology, but they’re still worth being aware of:

Top Role-Specific Certifications

  1. PHR & SPHR (Human Resources)
  2. SHRM (Human Resources)
  3. PMP (Project Management)
  4. Challenger Sales (Sales)
  5. Spin Selling (Sales)
  6. Sandler Training (Sales)
  7. A+ (Help Desk/Desktop Analyst)
  8. Network+ (Help Desk/Desktop Analyst)
  9. CCNA (Network)
  10. CCNP (Network)
  11. CCIE (Network)

Top Software Certifications

  1. Salesforce
  2. Hubspot’s Inbound Certification
  3. Google Certifications (Publisher, Analytics, AdWords, etc.)

2017 in Review: Finding New Opportunities

Finding new opportunities is an endless job for an independent contractor. In fact, if you’re on holidays right now, you may be working at it today. There are many strategies you can take to find the best opportunities and we talk about them frequently on the Talent Development Centre. 2017 did not lack in these posts. If you missed any, here’s a summary of our favourite ones:

It’s important to always develop skills, regardless of your trade, if you want to remain competitive and stand out among your peers. Here are a few posts on that topic…

Most people search for jobs online but not everybody uses the World Wide Web to its fullest potential. If you think you can improve there, check out these posts…

Finally, these posts will help you think outside the box a bit more and look to areas you may not have yet considered…