Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Job Search

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

Contractor Quick Poll: What’s your top consideration when choosing a recruitment agency?

If you’re a talented IT contractor, and your skills have ever been in high-demand in a hot job market, then you’ve probably received phone calls from multiple recruiters within a matter of minutes, all trying to sell you the same gig. A client came out with a new role and needs a response ASAP, now every recruiter in the city wants to submit that top fit for the job — you!

IT consultants often get the opportunity to choose which agency they will work with on a job. Sometimes it’s due to the example above and, in other cases, there are multiple job offers on the table, each with different recruitment agencies, and you need to decide which you will take. There are many factors that make up your decision and you weigh them all carefully before finally choosing how to proceed. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re out to learn what that most important consideration usually is when you have to make that decision.

Taking Notes is Important, Especially in Job Interviews

Taking Notes is Important, Especially in Job Interviews

Are you an avid note-taker? Taking notes comes in handy in countless situations. Training, webinars, conference calls, planning sessions, progress meetings, job interviews, sales calls… the list goes on. Essentially, if you’re having a conversation and there’s any chance you’re going to need to prepare beforehand or recall what’s being said afterwards, it’s wise to take organized notes.

Writing notes is more than being able to recall a conversation. Ask anybody who takes a lot of notes, including Eagle’s founder, Kevin Dee. He’s blogged about the benefits of note-taking on multiple occasions, including this post which highlights the top 10 reasons he takes notes regularly.

Keeping records of your meetings doesn’t mean you need to be a courtroom stenographer, jotting down every single word that each individual says. You’d miss the entire meeting and won’t get to contribute! This post on Meister’s Creativity & Productivity Blog prioritizes the types of points you should write down:

  • Facts (names, titles, roles)
  • Issues (problems that need to be solved)
  • Decisions (what has everyone agreed will happen)
  • Action Plans (who’s responsible for doing specific tasks)
  • Questions and Answers (what was asked and what responses were given throughout the meeting)

This framework is valuable because it catches all of the points you may need to reference, without missing out on discussions and debates that bring the team to these final points.

Taking Notes in a Job Interview

Some of the more important meetings you have as an IT contractor are job interviews, both with recruiters and clients. These are what will secure your work for the next period of time and you need to come across as prepared and professional.

Job interviews are one-on-one and the main goal is to have a discussion. That means that as important as it is, your note-taking cannot take priority. Continuous writing or, worse, having your head behind a laptop (please don’t bring a laptop to take notes), would destroy the personal connection you depend on for a successful interview. Instead, experts in this field recommend you jot down quick notes during the interview, but then schedule a few minutes immediately after your interview to go to a coffee shop and write everything down in more detail.

The notes you do take can follow Meister’s recommendations that are listed above.

  • Facts – The people you’re meeting with, their titles, specific details about the job would all be helpful later on.
  • Issues – This could be the client’s issues that you’re being interviewed to solve, but might also be issues for you to solve later such as errors or additions required in your resume or lack of qualifications that were identified.
  • Decisions – Not many decisions happen within the interview, but if you discuss next steps, which jobs the recruiter will submit you to, or who you should be dealing with moving forward, these are important notes to remember.
  • Action Plans – Possibly the most important note to take because you must do what you say you will. Whether it’s follow-up on a certain date, send an updated resume, or refer a colleague — if you said you’ll do it, then do it. You should also write down any actions the interviewer committed to doing.
  • Questions and Answers – Of course, you want to record the answers to the questions you asked the interviewer. You can also use this section to record the challenging questions you were asked so you can be better prepared next time.

Speaking of questions, prepare some notes ahead of time and write down questions you’ll want to ask the interviewer. You might go one step further and write down speaking points and quick notes to ensure you hit everything properly during the conversation; however, some experts warn against that type of preparation. They argue that answering questions from notes makes you appear less confident with the subject matter for which you’re interviewing and, therefore, less qualified for the role.

The majority of us write notes in some sort of way, but the detail and style of notes we write differentiate person-to-person. What kind of note-taking practices work best for you?

Backing Out of a Contract Without Ruining Your Reputation

Backing Out of a Contract Without Ruining Your Reputation

Arek Godlewski By Arek Godlewski,
Recruitment Specialist at Eagle

September 2020 marks 20 years of me being a technical recruiter.  There are a lot of stories and situations that will stay with me forever — most very positive, some befuddling, and then, in the minority, negative. Believe it or not, the scenario of consultants backing out of a contract they have accepted falls into all three.

As a recruiter I dread the call that starts with “Arek, we need to talk…”; however, it’s something that happens. It’s part of this business we call contracting. An important factor is how you approach the reneging. By nature, breaking a contract will almost definitely harm your professional relationship to some degree, not only with the recruiter/agency you work with, but also the client. So, if you are going to do it, at least do it right.

The most important point that I would like to make is that as a contractor, your reputation is your main selling point, so make your decision carefully and think about what will happen in 1 or 2 or 10 years from now. Sure a few dollars more will benefit you in the short term, however; will breaking a potentially long-lasting professional relationship worth it?

If there are no other options and you will need to break your agreement with the client, my top advice is to tell the truth and talk about it. More specifically:

  1. Be honest — Getting caught in a lie will only hurt your reputation further.
  2. Make it a phone call or in-person conversation — This will help you set the tone and explain your reasoning.
  3. Demonstrate that you’ve tried everything possible not to have to break the contract.

Full disclosure: I will always, always ask if there is anything that I can do, or facilitate with the client, to change your mind. Having said that, the person walking away from the contract will always have me championing their decision. I totally get that certain situations and life in general can get in the way. Even if I disagree wholeheartedly with the reason (#1 is getting an offer that pays few dollars more — but that’s an article in itself), I will make sure that I will have your back with my management and the client.

Naturally, there are a couple definite don’ts that I would like to highlight. These are in poor form, leave a lasting impression of the worst kind and, unfortunately, are way too common:

  1. Don’t ghost us. Don’t send an email after hours and then not pick up the phone (there’s no need to be afraid of the person on the other side).
  2. Don’t use a false family emergency as a reason. I am loathe in including this example, but it’s the most used line to back out of the contract. In my experience, albeit anecdotal, those individuals update their LinkedIn with a new job the next week (yeah, we check).

In closing, stuff happens and sometimes one has to make difficult decision, but before you do, think about how it will affect you in the long run and always be honest, it’s the best way to live.

What to Think About Before Transitioning from a Functional to Technical Role (or vice-versa)

What to Think About Before Transitioning from a Functional to Technical Role (or vice-versa)

Hassan Nasrallah By Hassan Nasrallah,
Recruitment Specialist at Eagle

In our ever-expanding and constantly changing IT world, you might have realized you are meant for a career or transition that is more rewarding, whether that be more money, personally fulfilling/satisfying or provides better flexibility with your work/life balance. Your IM/IT experience may be more transferable than you think and here’s what you should know

Career transitions are always a hot topic and now more than ever, people are finding themselves needing to either make a change due to economic pressures or a needing to expand their horizons through bigger challenges and bigger rewards.

OR

Even more specifically, you have been recognized within your client company as a top contractor whether that be for your technical skills or commitment to the industry, and are now being considered for a role that is outside your comfort zone!

From functional to technical or vice versa, I want to delve into some of the challenges that one may encounter when transitioning into an unfamiliar role and a few tips to help make that transition.

Determine Your Career path

First and foremost, determine the path you want to take. One thing is absolutely certain, you are changing your current role to something else entirely. Aside from the obvious immediate change, what other factors do you need to adjust, add or remove in order to be considered “effective” and ultimately, is this the correct path for you?

While salary might off-set some concerning discrepancies in what you’re doing now to what you actually enjoy doing, make no mistake, there is a point of diminishing returns. This will hit you doubly so when you are making a move between a functional and technical position because the skills in tech are usually constantly being updated so you will need to learn fast if taking an interim break is not an option for you. On the flip side, soft skills are called soft not because they are easier to attain but because they are not readily quantifiable. Communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes are all decades long skills that are practiced everyday naturally from our childhoods; however, if an individual is lacking in a critical soft skill in a non-technical role, it would be incredibly difficult to ramp up on them. It’s not like you can just read the release notes of being “emotionally intelligent”.

As an IT recruiter, I am able to peer into the tasks and responsibilities of high-level architects, solution managers and deeply technical software engineers and while they all share commonalities, there are hurdles and bounds that make each role distinct, especially within the software development lifecycle. For example, architects are extremely broad in their knowledge of implementations and understanding of software development while often having excellent communication/articulation skills. In contrast, engineers are excellent problem solvers and have to be quite meticulous when it comes to programming according to customer requirements. (additionally, on average, developers/programmers don’t need the communication aptitude of an experienced architect)

Although there are different ways to approach a change like this, I found that I can work it best through 3 main parts.

  • The mindset or perspective of the target role in which you would like to apply to
  • The working culture surrounding the role
  • The key abilities that make that role become effective within the industry you are working in

Mindset

If you’re coming from a technical role and are transitioning into a managerial setting, you would need to adopt a different way of solving problems than if you were fixing errors in lines of code. People are more fluid and resistant to solutions that you think might work. You need to become accustomed to unsolicited feedback, unprecedented and often illogical challenges.

It can prove detrimental to stick to just a familiar (and obviously previously successful) way of thinking and problem solving. While this may have proven useful in your past roles, mindsets in either technical or functional areas are more often mutually exclusive.

A mindset change is essential to grow within your new role and eventually, your deliverables will be measured and judged on quality, efficiency and innovation.

My best advice when trying to think differently about certain approaches that one might take is to appeal to an authority. Find a trusted advisor or expert that can answer your questions and provide you some perspective on how to implement different solutions that were resistant to your initial efforts. This will give you a foundation to grow from and hopefully start a pattern of successful learning experiences

Culture

Another huge area when considering a potential switch is the work culture. What is your new role’s culture like and do you see yourself fitting into it?

I place a lot of importance on this because humans are creatures of habit. We fall into environments that complement our social mannerisms and when removed, it tends to affect us in adverse ways. You may be more familiar to a team environment when your new role requires you to be alone most of the time. You may like to dive head-first into your projects and take a very hands-on approach when your new role requires that you go through compliance/guidelines/approvals/etc.

A personal example is a candidate of mine that was an innovative thinker that really wanted to change some work processes to ensure success and “productivity” when really, the role called for him to “toe the line” (referring to him ignoring any inefficiencies). He eventually quit the position and the hiring manager was not saddened to see him go.

Your work culture is essential to your success and some people might turn up their nose at this citing that it’s less important in the IT contracting world. I would argue that it’s more important due to the finite amount of time to understand the tasks given to you and how you can achieve them operating through an unfamiliar culture

Take the time to properly understand how things are done at your client company, how it might revolve around your new role and what you can do to effectively integrate yourself within that environment

Ability

Lastly, I’ll touch upon ability

I don’t mean to question your own ability to perform well in this new career path but to recognize and utilize your already well-earned abilities to your advantage. Make use of your own KSAs (knowledge, abilities and skills) and actively try to meld them into your new environment. If you’re more used to design and are now working in development. Try to bring your design knowledge into your workstream and incorporate in any way that you think might coincide effectively with your new tasks and responsibilities.

It will differentiate you from others when meeting project deadlines and increase your value to your client when they get more than they bargained for!

All in all

Making a switch into a completely different avenue of work can be very challenging and in a lot of ways, a brave and respectable endeavour. You will gain an entire scope of knowledge that you may have not known even existed. I hope to have brought some helpful advice to individuals who are considering a transition into a new field and I wish you good luck in your future success!

 

What to Do When You Change Your Email Address

What to Do When You Change Your Email Address

Email is the preferred method of communication for most IT contractors during their job search. Because of their busy schedules, it’s challenging to answer a phone call in the middle of the day, so they usually ask recruiters to send them the details of a job and they’ll look at it later. Some urgent jobs require a phone call to get an immediate response, but for the most part, recruiters are happy to send notifications primarily by email… but they need to know the right email address!

There’s nothing worse than finding an opportunity that is perfect for somebody but when we try to reach out, that email address is not in service or we get a response much later on because they barely monitor that inbox. And these are addresses that had activity within the last few months!

There are many reasons you might get a new email address, for example, you might decide to create an address using your own custom domain or you might change ISPs. Regardless of the why, when you do change contact info, here are a few tips to make sure recruiters, clients and everyone else can still find you:

  • Are You Sure? Prevent yourself from going through this process again by making sure your new email address can pass the test of time and that it’s extremely unlikely you’ll need to get a new one. Keep it generic and use a provider like Gmail or Outlook that you know isn’t going anywhere. Using your ISP like Bell or Telus is a risk because you may change providers in the future, forcing you to be on the lookout for yet another email address.
  • Keep the Old Address. For as long as possible, hold onto that old address to prevent anyone from receiving hard bounce-backs when they use it. Keeping access also means you can set-up email forwarding to your new address and a custom bounce-back message to senders, letting them know your new contact info.
  • Export/Import When Possible. They all have a different process, but most email systems will allow you to export all of your contacts and even your emails. Use these tools to bring information and set-up your new email for a flawless transition.
  • Let Your Favourite Contacts Know. Not everybody who you’ve ever sent an email to cares that you’ve changed, but it is a good idea to notify all of the contacts who really need to know. Some people keep strict SPAM filters and will need to add your new address to the safe list.
  • Update Your Online Profiles. If you use a password manager, or keep a list of passwords anywhere, this is a good place to start at to find all of those profiles you have created that need updating. And yes, whenever possible, update your profile as opposed to creating a new one with your new email address.
  • Don’t Look Back. Now that you’ve switched, it’s time to commit to that address and stick to it. Unless you have obvious, black and white rules as to which address is used when, you will confuse all of your contacts if you use different addresses at random times. We’ve seen IT contractors actively use multiple addresses and not only is it difficult to manage, but it raises red flags that they might be trying to do something sneaky.

While it would be great if we could always use that same tried and true email address, extenuating circumstances cause everyone to get a new one now and again. How you manage that change will affect your job search and business relationships. But, like any change, the transition will be smoother if you plan out the process and communicate well.

4 Job Search Tips to Help You Keep Getting Through 2020

4 Job Search Tips to Help You Keep Getting Through 2020

Graeme Bakker By Graeme Bakker,
Director, Delivery Strategy & Development at Eagle

We’re now way past the half-way mark of 2020 and I think it’s safe to say, it’s been an unpredictable rollercoaster. We’ve all experienced a few unpleasant surprises and new challenges to stress us out. The good news with difficulties, though, is that we can always learn something from them.

Having been working with hundreds of IT contractors over the past few months to help them keep their careers moving, I’ve seen tons of job search advice — some good and some meh. These are the top four job search tips I’ve been passing along to my network as we start to get used to our “new world”:

1.  Communication is Key

Communication skills and the ability to explain your role and your skill set are more important than ever.  Clients are looking for individuals that can communicate in an effective manner to make sure that all issues and problems are addressed right away and correctly in remote work places.  They are looking for confident orators and individuals that have good writing skills.  Make sure to communicate strongly and effectively during your interviews and read over your resume for any grammatical and spelling errors.

2.  Relationship Building with Your Recruiter

Now is the time to make that relationship with your recruiter more than a couple quick phone calls every couple of months, and more a business relationship.  Make sure that your recruiter knows what you are willing to do and where you want your career to take you in these uncertain times.  Let them know what your rate range is, what your strengths are and what separates you from the rest of the pack.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and this is a perfect time to be the one contacting your recruiter regularly to make sure you are not missing out on any opportunities.

3.  Full-Time Opportunities

Many companies are sending out more full-time opportunities.  If you are a contract worker, maybe it is the time to ask some questions and see what some of the full-time opportunities look like in your area of expertise?  You don’t need to switch from contract work, but it is a good thing to know what is out there and what full-time opportunities can afford you as well.

4.  Try Something New — Remote work

A lot of the opportunities in the market are for remote work only.  This is a great time to look at companies that you normally would not have the chance of applying for due to geographic issues. With more companies forced into using remote workers this will open up the job market to people who are struggling to find the right projects when they live in areas that might not offer that type of work.  This is an opportunity to apply to projects outside of your city and see what kind of opportunities can come from working at home.  Worst case scenario, your name and resume get sent to a hiring manager!

How else have you adjusted your job search in the past few months so you can take advantage of a changing job market? Have any of these four tips in particular worked (or not worked) for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The Devil is in the Details and Why It Should Matter to Contractors

The Devil is in the Details and Why It Should Matter to Contractors

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

For most of Eagle’s clients, extensive background checks are part of the onboarding process. Gone are the days when a client would accept reference checks and a simple criminal check.  Due to increased privacy and security issues, along with global security standards such as ISO 27001, clients require extensive background checks that include verification of past employment (often for the past 5-7 years — this includes every contract a contractor may have held), education verification, and criminal checks. In addition, many organizations, specifically financial institutions, also require a credit check.

Some of these checks extend beyond Canada and include extensive international checks that take several weeks to complete.  Due to the rigorous process involved with completing these checks, it is critical that contractors complete the intake forms properly and ensure that ALL data is accurate, properly aligning with past contracts and information found in your resume.

Varying details may seem minor, but we’ve seen these inconsistencies create huge headaches for independent contractors. First, it can extend the process, and ultimately the project start date, as companies keep coming back for additional information. We especially run into trouble when the in-depth security process follows up with past clients and insitutions. Some common issues have included:

  • Project dates listed on the resume and the background check form not aligning with what the actual dates verfieid by the end client;
  • Job titles on the resume and/or background check forms not aligning with what the client has listed; and,
  • Education degrees and completion dates being different than what the contractor lists on their resume and background check form.

If the data comes back incomplete or false, the agency and the end client are allerted to the information discrepancies.  Sometimes, and this is more often that case these days, contracts are then cancelled. Clients whose projects require the utmost integrity feel they simply can’t take the risk. If a person is willing to lie about their job title or education, where else might they cross the line.

Contractors are often rushed when completing this part of the onboarding process or they might brush off the importance.  As we’ve learned, though, it is critical that contractors cross-reference the data in their contracts (you do keep them, right) and the information is found on their resumes and background check forms.  A simple, honest error can make you appear unethical and lead to losing a valuable contract. Worse, your entire career could be affected by potentially being flagged for future contracts with the agency and the end client, all due to a preventable mistake that led you to providing false information.

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details so take the time to own your data and ensure its accuracy.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: When do you prefer to hear from recruiters?

When the perfect opportunity for you comes across a recruiter’s desk, they want to get a hold of you as quickly as possible to find out if you’re interested and submit your application to the client. For some jobs, it’s a matter of hours before the opportunity closes, so speedy contact is key. Emails and texts are great, but there’s no better way to contact somebody quickly — and to have a good quality conversation — than by phone.

We all have different schedules and there are points in our day where a phone call with a recruiter simply isn’t feasible. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked you what times of day would be best to hear from a recruiter. The results were mixed, but it looks like we can draw one conclusion: few people want to talk to anyone before they’ve finished their morning coffee!

Networking During a Pandemic

Networking During a Pandemic

Crystal Nicol By Crystal Nicol,
Director of Delivery, Strategy and Development at Eagle

A couple years ago, I shared a post here about the benefits of networking events and why it’s a good idea to attend them. Today, with physical distancing measures due to the pandemic, face-to-face networking events are non-existent, but nurturing relationships remains prevelant. Everything we do now in our networks has become more important than ever, including sending emails, making calls, texting, sending a social message, etc. How we make people feel during this is going to remain longer during these unstable times.

Remember, face to face networking may be on pause but our relationship building isn’t. The contacts you make have to be more personal so think of communications you can send out that YOU would be happy to receive. There are a number of simple gestures that give a personal touch and will do more to build and strengthen your relationships, rather than sending out impersonalized mass communications. For example:

  • Wishing someone a happy birthday
  • Reposting their LinkedIn share
  • Sending them a text just to say hello and to check in
  • Sending an article that may be of interest to them
  • Sharing helpful market information

There are also a number of virtual conferences happening that you can still take advantage of as they offer the opportunity to “virtually” network. For example, email speakers after the event to ask questions or offer feedback. Or, if there is a particular area you are interested in, ask them if they’d be willing to brainstorm or have a brief discussion with you about it. It may be different and uncomfortable for you, but do your best to bring value to the virtual conference in any creative way you can.

The main goal here is to take the risk and put yourself out there. Today, creating and maintaining virtual relationships is the key to your business success and building a strong network.

Make Note of These 5 Sections in Your IT Contract

Make Note of These 5 Sections in Your IT Contract

Do you carefully read through your new contracts before signing them? Of course you do.  You need to protect yourself and your business, so at a minimum, you’re hopefully reviewing the job description one last time, double-checking that it shows the rate you agreed to, and having a lawyer comb through those legal clauses to highlight any flags.

Aside from ensuring it’s legally sound and risk-free, there are also details in most IT contracts that you should write down and remember because they’re going to come in handy once the gig gets going. Here are the top 5 common ones that, in our experience, contractors are more likely to skip over and ask questions about later:

  1. Client Policy and Procedures
    Many clients require that contractors also review and sign-off on their internal policies and procedures. These can span across a number of topics including office behaviour (ex. dress code, hours of operation) or health and safety (ex. use of equipment or rules at specific sites). If you’re asked to sign-off on a contractor handbook or something similar, be sure to actually read and understand it. Failure to follow client policies can result in a quick termination of your contract.
  2. Confidentiality and Ownership
    IT contractors are privy to competitive client information as you’re part of the teams building out their future innovations. Often contracts include clauses protecting the client and stating that what you see or build must remain within the client’s walls. That also means that anything you create is owned by the client and not you. You have no right to bring it over for use on another project.
  3. Timesheet Requirements
    Each client has different preferences on how time is submitted and approved. Some will ask you to use their own timesheet system, others will ask you to use your agency’s system. Timesheets may be electronic and they might be paper. The due date and frequency also vary by client, as well as the number of approvers required. Understand all of these requirements at the start of your contract in order to avoid confusion when the first timesheet is due, and ensuring that there is no delay in your first payment.
  4. Invoicing Requirements
    Clients will have timesheet preferences and your agency is going to have invoicing preferences. How frequently must you submit your invoice and by which date in order to get paid on time? There might also be mandatory information to display on your invoice in order for it to be approved and paid out. Again, knowing these instructions upfront eliminates surprises when it’s time to invoice and get paid.
  5. Your Contact Person
    Depending on the agency and the client, you’ve probably spoken with many different people at this point in the job search and contract process. Emails are floating around your inbox from the recruiter who originally helped you find the job, the account executive who deals with the client and the onboarding team who finalized your contract details. So, which one should you reach out to now if there is a problem at the client site? Are there different people depending on the scenario?

Every line in your IT contract is important and should be carefully reviewed to protect yourself and ensure a smooth relationship with your client and staffing agency. The five items above should be highlighted and kept in the back of your mind to help you along the way. If you don’t notice them in your contract, ask about them to avoid confusion when it comes up later on.