Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Working with Recruiters

Advice for IT job seekers and independent contractors in Canada when working with recruiters and staffing agencies to successfully get a job.

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.

Contractor Quick Poll: When do you prefer to receive a phone call?

IT contractors are busy people and, while you may want to hear from recruiters about upcoming contract opportunities, you also have a preference as to when you’d like to be called. Great recruiters are flexible and will contact you when it works best for you. We’ve learned that some professionals prefer an early-morning call, others late at night and others are somewhere in between.

In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re out to see if there’s a common preference among our readers. When do you like hearing from recruiters?

Handling a Recruiter’s Unexpected Cold Call While Maintaining a Positive Relationship

 

Handling a Recruiter's Unexpected Cold Call While Maintaining a Positive Relationship

IT contractors who have been in the community for long enough know that cold calls from tech recruiters are inevitable. Sometimes you welcome them, other times you find them a nuisance, but one thing you’ve learned is that they’re not going away.

Naturally, we prefer that you embrace these calls. Recruiters dream of calling a contractor who answers the phone on the first ring, drops everything to listen intently about the opportunity, provides all the information required and gratefully thanks them before hanging up and emailing an updated resume right away. Ha! We also understand the reality that you’re a busy professional receiving calls from other agencies too and you simply don’t have time to humour us all.

Great recruiters understand that they need to build respectful relationships with IT contractors if they want to do business with them in the future. Similarly, smart contractors are aware that it’s wise to build relationships with recruiters today if you want to increase your chances of getting a gig tomorrow.

Why Are Recruiters Cold Calling You?

When a recruiter contacts you out of the blue, they might have a specific job opportunity and are wondering if you’re interested or they may have some intelligence that a company or several companies will soon be looking for contractors with your unique skillset. In any case, they are not calling to offer you a job on the spot, but rather want to understand your current status and if you’re open to opportunities.

The Best Way to Handle a Recruiter’s Cold Call

If you pick up the phone and find a recruiter on the other end, the first thing is to remain polite, even if you’d rather not hear from them. Remember, it’s always important to build that relationship… plus they’re human and deserve respect. If you don’t have time but are interested, ask to reschedule at a better time. If you’re not interested at all, let them know that quickly as well, to save everyone some time.

When you have a few minutes and know you’ll be looking for a contract in the coming months, we recommend taking the time to listen to what the recruiter is asking about. A respectful recruiter will keep it brief and transparent. A few questions you should be prepared to answer include:

  • When are you available to start your next contract?
  • What industries and/or disciplines do you prefer?
  • What’s your current rate range?
  • What area(s) of the city do you prefer to work in?

If You Choose to Ignore That Call

Every recruiter would love it if you answered the phone but we understand if you don’t. Especially In today’s world, an unfamiliar number is usually somebody trying to sell you something or a computer notifying you that you’re under arrest. That said, the recruiter is almost definitely going to leave a voicemail and/or follow-up with an email. Do your best to respond promptly. Like you would on the call, briefly let them know your interests and availability for your next contract. Sending an updated resume is always a nice touch. Or, if you’re happy where you are with no intentions to leave, be open about that as well.

Every relationship has micro-opportunities that allow you influence it in a positive or negative way. A simple 3-minute phone call can make a huge difference in whether or not you hear from a recruiter down the road.

Get More Job Opportunities by Keeping Recruiters Up to Date on These 5 Things

If the information about you in a recruiter's database is wrong or outdated, then expect to get calls for jobs that don't match what you want!

As an IT contractor, you probably have relationships with dozens of technology recruiters. Those recruiters keep you in a database, filled with thousands of other qualified contractors. While a couple might always keep you top-of-mind, the reality is that unless you have an extremely niche, in-demand skill set with incredible results, you’re only going to get a call if you match their search criteria. If the information about you in their database is wrong or outdated, then expect to get calls for jobs that don’t match what you want! Therefore, it’s in your best interest to keep recruiters up to date on your job status and career.

One solution is to create a distribution list of your favourite recruiters. If there’s a change to any of the following, send out an email notifying them of the update. Or, visit the staffing agency’s self-serve portal (if available) to update the information as soon as you have it.

New Skills and Certifications

You do not need to send an update saying “I gained another year of experience as a Systems Analyst” but if you learn a brand-new skill or earned a certification that is nowhere to be seen on your existing resume, your recruiter should know! It’s smart to send an entirely new resume with updates like this because they will need to pass that along to potential clients.

Contact Information

Recruiters need to get a hold of you! If there is a change to your email address or preferred phone number, let everyone know as soon as possible. Depending on how your recruiter’s database is set-up, once your number or email address is deemed “unreachable”, your resume may end up in a black hole forever. While it’s less urgent when you move a few blocks, relocating to a new city is important for your recruiter to know as well.

Date Available

Smart recruiters keep on top of contractors’ availability because they want to send you relevant job opportunities when you’re actually looking. If you haven’t already, tell all of your favourite recruiters when your current contract ends. Do that right now. Remember if a contract is extended or ends early, update them about that too.

Interest in Permanent Job Opportunities

Recruiters safely assume that an independent contractor has chosen this style of work as their career choice and that they are not interested in hearing about full-time, permanent job openings. If you’re in the minority and you’re a contractor who would like to hear about permanent jobs as well, make a point of telling your recruiter. Otherwise, you will only hear about a portion of the job opportunities that are out there.

Other Openings at Your Client

We hinted at the beginning of this post that being top-of-mind to a recruiter is your best chance of hearing about new jobs, and helping them out every now and then is the best way to get there. When you hear about upcoming projects or planned hiring sprees at a client, pass this lead onto your favourite recruiters. IT contractors who help recruiters win new business become unforgettable to those recruiters and their entire recruitment agency.

There is no need to call recruiters every month for a small chat or to send small resume updates when you’re on a contract for two more years. But if you remember to keep recruiters updated on just these few areas, you might be surprised at the number of relevant opportunities you start to receive!

You Need to Listen to Your Recruiter

You Need to Listen to Your Recruiter

No, we are not implying that recruiters are always right and you should always do what they say. Instead, we’re stressing how important it is to actively listen to your recruiter, not just hear what they’re saying.

Exemplary listening skills take practice to perfect and when you excel at it, you’ll find more success and build better relationships. If we examine just the interactions you have with recruiters through your IT contracting career, active listening can make a massive difference. For example:

  • When you truly hear and understand the description of a job and the environment, you know that the job will be right (or wrong) for you.
  • When you listen carefully to a recruiter telling you about a client project, you have a better interview with the client because you understand their situation.
  • When you understand everybody’s concerns, situations and expectations, you increase your bargaining power when negotiating a rate.
  • When you listen properly during a heated situation, you appear more polite and professional, plus you improve the chances of a positive resolution.

When you’re a good listener, you build better relationships and have an easier time winning contracts. It’s that simple!

Business Insider recently put together a list of 7 things great listeners do that set them apart and it’s a perfect summary of simple steps you can take to improve your job search and relationship with a recruiter.

  1. They Self Regulate: Regardless of triggered emotions, great listeners moderate their strong reactions and encourage the other person to keep talking. When a recruiter is giving you feedback — maybe they’ve reviewed your resume or they’re passing on performance feedback from the client — your instincts might be to defend your position. Instead, bite your tongue and hear them out so you can learn and improve.
  2. They Treat All Perspectives as Valid: Certainly, there are undisputable facts in life, but a person’s perception based on their experience and point-of-view is never wrong. Understanding perspective is valuable when resolving any conflict, as well as negotiating rate. While you may not agree with your recruiter’s arguments or justifications, knowing what brought them to their stance will make it much easier to find common ground and a win-win solution.
  3. They Check for Understanding: This is key when learning about an opportunity. You’d hate to go through the application process only to realize close to the end that this job isn’t for you. Or even worse, show up on your first day of the contract only to learn that there was a miscommunication and the gig is not what you thought it was. If there is any doubt, restate what the recruiter just told you, but in your own words. They can then clear-up any misunderstanding.
  4. They Ask Clarifying Questions: Assumptions are dangerous. Instead of shrugging your shoulders and assuming you understand, be curious and follow-up with more questions. Which specific location is the work being done? How long will it be before you get an answer from the client? What exactly does the client environment look like? What requirement are you missing that prevents the rate from going any higher?
  5. They Listen with Their Eyes as Well as Their Ears: Watch your recruiter during an interview to gauge their reactions to your responses. They might not verbally tell you that your response lacked detail, but facial expressions or tone of voice will indicate that something’s missing. Use that opportunity to ask if they need clarification and improve your answer.
  6. They Make Sure Everyone is Heard: When Business Insider raised this point, it was to point out the quiet people in a meeting whose voices aren’t being heard. This advice is also relevant for the two-person relationship between you and your recruiter. Give them time to speak in all situations — when you’re discussing opportunities, client issues, or just getting to know each other. Be aware if you tend to be overbearing in conversation, and consciously stop to listen.
  7. They Note What’s Not Said: Intentionally or accidentally, when a recruiter leaves out pertinent information, it leads to misunderstandings that can drastically affect your career. Note when a job description lacks details that are typically included in other postings. Recognize what’s being glossed over too quickly when the recruiter presents an opportunity. Then ask about it and ensure the answer is what you need it to be.

There is no arguing that listening and communication requires two people but unfortunately, you only have control over yourself. You can help your recruiter improve their listening by being patient and thorough with their follow-up questions, being cognizant of your body language and tone of voice, and slowing down to make it as easy as possible for them to hear what you’re saying.

Can you be a better listener? The answer for everyone is almost definitely “Yes”, we just need to identify where to start.

Please Don’t Ghost Recruiters After Being Submitted to a Client

Please Don't Ghost Recruiters After Being Submitted to a Client

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

A major part of a successful recruiter/consultant relationship, is building a connection that lasts. Afterall, when a recruiter and consultant are working together, it often takes a couple of opportunities and submissions before a placement occurs.

During this process, many forms of conversation need to happen, via both email and phone. Having been leading recruiters for a number of years now, I commonly hear “I can’t get in touch with Joe,” or “Sarah won’t confirm her interview availability.”  On the flip side, consultants provide feedback like “I never heard back about my submission,” or “Nobody ever called me about a possible interview.”

Contract opportunities often come in fast and close even faster. A major challenge contractors and recruiters have throughout the process is being sure to communicate back-and-forth quickly, as new information becomes available. And after all of that rush, the hiring manager is sometimes slow to review and feedback on submissions seems non-existent.  This causes anxiety for both recruiters and consultants.

Trust me when I say that recruiters LOVE getting feedback from clients about submissions. And there is nothing more that we would love than to let you know that feedback, in detail.  No feedback is as frustrating for everyone.

But a client’s hiring process is not simple and they are also dealing with many unknowns. There might be a delay for any number of reasons beyond their control, meaning it could be another week before the resumes even get to the right hiring manager.  We’ve also seen hold-ups happen because the client wants to hire two people instead of one person for the role and interviews get pushed for another week.  So many things can happen behind the scenes.

Still, it’s understandable that delays, lack of feedback and too many “no update updates” would cause a consultant to disengage with their recruiter. Sometimes this results in contractors “ghosting” their recruiter – completely ignoring emails or phone calls and not responding at all. This, however, can send the wrong message and may have negative effects.

As noted, clients’ hiring processes timelines can vary and be delayed for many reasons. Sometimes, the recruiter only hears something a couple weeks later, when they receive a notice that the client wants to interview the consultant. If you’ve already ghosted them due to a lack of feedback, then the recruiter is going to be forced to tell the client that you are no longer interested, and a new search begins to find somebody else for the job.  Furthermore, it decreases their confidence in considering you for future submissions.

Communication, or lack there-of, is a common reason we see job opportunities fall apart. I recommend working with your recruiter to make a communication plan upfront. Let them know how often and when you prefer updates to be sent (even if there is no update), plus if the recruiter doesn’t offer the information, ask them about how the client works so you can set your own expectations during the process.

Patience is something that both the recruiter and the consultant working together must understand.  Certainly, great recruiters must check-in with job applicants, even if there is no feedback, so the consultant is aware of what may or may not be coming down the pipe. And at the same time, as a consultant, you should trust your recruiter and have confidence that if there is information or feedback, you will receive it.

The Difference Between a Recruiter and Client Interview

The Difference Between a Recruiter and Client Interview

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

I often get questions from consultants asking me, “What’s the difference between my interview with a recruiter and the interview with the client (hiring manager)” or “Why do I need to meet with you if I’m also meeting with the hiring manager?” There is a real difference between the recruiter interview and the hiring manager interview, and they each have their importance. Remember, the recruiter is a third-party individual who is working with the client company to go out into the market and find the best candidates possible for that client company’s position. The hiring manager is someone who actually works directly at the client company seeking to fill the position.

A recruiter is requested to use their searching expertise to go out into the industry and find and qualify the best candidate possible who specifically fit a set of requirements provided by the hiring manager. They’re really focusing in on skills and requirements and the job fit. It’s the hiring manager who will take this candidate from the recruiter and then determine if the candidate’s qualifications are suitable for the open position, the team fit, the company’s culture, the company’s core values, etc.

An interview with the recruiter is important. In this interview they will ask you questions to help them determine if you have the specific skills required for the open position. The recruiter wants to set you up for success in your future role so they are going to look deep into your work experience and try to understand both your strengths and weaknesses. Interviewing with the recruiter is also good practice. As per this SparkHire post, during this interview, the recruiter will also coach you and help you prepare for your interview with the hiring manager. They will provide you with useful tips throughout the hiring process, such as appropriate dress, resume format, and handling gaps in employment. They can also provide advice on when it’s appropriate to ask questions about things such as salary and benefits. Your best bet is to look at your interview and conversations with the recruiter as more of a training advantage and a way to learn inside information on the job and hiring manager beforehand.

During the interview with a hiring manager, the hiring manager will ask you questions to determine if your experience would be beneficial not only to the position but to the company as well. The hiring manager is the person who defined the scope of work, including the tasks and responsibilities, and the requirements of the role. They also have the bigger picture and understand the goals and milestones that go along with this role. The hiring manager has the insight into the company and is more likely to assess your skills to see if your skill set would align to other projects or departments in the company, along with this position. They are also asking the candidate questions to determine the team and culture fit. It is the hiring manager who makes the decision over whether or not to hire the candidate.

Remember, it’s important to create a good relationship with your recruiter. A good recruiter is an added benefit to your job searching. If this particular opportunity didn’t work out and if you’ve made a good impression, the recruiter will work with you on future positions, increasing your options.

Your Client’s Workplace is Toxic — Time to Get Out!

Your Client’s Workplace is Toxic -- Time to Get Out!

Professionals often go into the gig economy to work for themselves because they don’t want to answer to a boss or manage employees. IT contractors know that, although their company and decisions are their own, they still need to answer to a client and, more dreadfully, work with their employees and put-up with their office shenanigans.

Most client workplaces are great. The weird employees, freeloading team members and awkward individuals will always exist, but for the most part, the environments are bearable and you’re capable of delivering on your requirements. Then, there are those other client sites. The toxic workplaces where nobody is happy, you can’t get anything done and, and it starts to take a toll on your mental health.

How can you tell if you’ve joined an IT project team that’s part of a toxic work environment? There are a number of common signs, many of which are summed up well in this Inc. article. Generally, you’ll notice that a toxic office has low energy and motivation among all the employees. They might seem happy and agreeable, but when you pull back the curtains, you notice that people are gossiping about each other, working in silos and cliques rather than teams, and having unofficial sidebar meetings.

Once you’ve been at the client site for a little longer, additional signs start to pop-up. The lazy people are still getting away with murder, others are getting promoted based on no merit whatsoever, and the few people who were an asset to your project slowly start to leave.

Now the bells are going off and you realize that there is no way you can be successful in an environment like this. Regardless of your experience as an IT contractor, there’s only so much you can do to make technology projects succeed. If the organizational support is not there, you’re sure to crash and burn, and your reputation will take a hit. So, what do you do?

Don’t Give-Up Too Easily

If the contract doesn’t have much time left on it, keep your head down and focus on your deliverables without getting sucked into the drama. Working from home when possible and avoiding the toxic individuals will help.

Cover Your Bases

You also need to think of self-preservation. An environment like this means employees are going to throw you under the bus whenever possible, so you need to be prepared. Document all your work and conversations. When somebody tries to point the blame your way because they didn’t complete a task or messed-up a deliverable, your notes and emails might be your only saviour.

Keep Your Recruiter in the Loop

Staffing agencies bring value to IT contractors in several ways, one of which being that they help you navigate these situations. Let your recruiter know that something’s sour in the environment as soon as you notice it so they can help you find solutions. Most importantly, be upfront if you think leaving might be the only option, providing plenty of notice. This popular post by Morley Surcon includes tips on how to leave a contract early, if it’s absolutely necessary.

A toxic work environment is a brutal place to have to spend 40 hours a week, but unfortunately, they exist across all regions, in all industries. If you find that yourself in one when you start your placement, act fast by either developing your plan to adjust and succeed, or preparing an exit plan that keeps your integrity intact.

AI is Changing the Way Clients and Staffing Agencies Recruit (and you need to pay attention)

AI is Changing the Way Clients and Staffing Agencies Recruit (and you need to pay attention)Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming our world every day and regularly changing the way we live our lives. Whether you’re listening to music, ordering fast food, or interacting with an online customer service agent, AI lets you work faster, be more efficient and get what you need.

There are many implications of AI to an IT contractor. First, as implied above, AI is bringing new opportunities to companies across all industries, and that results in more IT projects across the board. More specifically, you should take time to understand how AI is affecting the ways clients and staffing agencies hire, so you can better adjust the way you search for jobs.

Clients are Re-Evaluating their Job Opportunities

There is an ongoing debate of whether or not robots will steal all of our jobs, leaving more people unemployed. According to this recent article from Entrepreneur, though, companies are not using AI to replace skilled professionals but are using it to fill talent gaps. This is especially true in the IT industry.

The article references research by Korn Ferry that predicts a talent shortage of 1.1 million in the US technology, media and telecom industries by 2020, and a 4.3 million shortage by 2030. To fill that gap, AI will be used for some coding tasks, as it can identify an objective, autonomously develop a framework, generate code and find the ideal mixture of APIs and SDKs.

Of course, companies know that artificial intelligence cannot replace the critical thinking and human element that a real person brings to the table. So, instead, they’re using new tactics, combining multiple job roles into one and recruiting skilled talent that work with the AI. Hiring managers are analyzing specific job postings and determining which tasks from a job can be handed off to a computer, thus allowing one person to do more value-added work. In theory, your work should become more interesting with fewer monotonous, “housekeeping” tasks.

Recruiters are Looking at Your Resume Differently (if at all)

This Fast Company article is written around the fact that staffing agencies, clients and employers are mostly using some form of artificial intelligence within their recruiting processes, and that changes how you should write your resume. Sometimes tools are used to screen your resume against a specific job after you apply, and other times it helps a recruiter search a database of thousands of people for the right matching candidates. In all cases, it means a human is not going to evaluate your resume unless you first make it past that AI gate keeper. The article offers three suggestions for your resume:

  1. Focus on Your Skills: This is the most important tip. The article stresses not to bother with fluff in your resume like metaphors and weird titles like “Coding Ninja”. It even goes so far as to suggest that soft skills are not relevant to get past an AI. What really matters is to include specific skills you use in a project, and known titles to match those skills. It is also wise to include common seniority terms, such as “Lead” or “Senior” before your title.
  2. Skip the Personal Statement: The personal statement is similar to the soft skills — computers don’t care. Of course, if your resume does get into the hands of a human, a brief elevator pitch to sell yourself might benefit you.
  3. Customize Your Resume, But Not Too Much: The article says not to waste too much time customizing every resume to every specific job. Instead, as long as you weave the proper skills throughout the resume, the AI should be smart enough to recognize you are a fit for a job.

How else has AI affected the way you search for jobs? Leave your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear more and share our advice to overcome obstacles you may be facing.

Closing the Communication Loop with Your Recruiter

Communication breakdowns are one of the most common causes of missed opportunities, hurt relationships, failed projects and pretty much anything that can go wrong in business. As an independent contractor, you are right to expect the best service from your recruiters, including excellent communication, but even the best recruiters will drop the ball sometimes. If you truly want the relationship to work out, then it is up to you to help set expectations and close the loop in communications.

This quick video we created provides examples of how your follow-ups to everyday conversations can go a long way in getting the information you need from your recruiter and ensuring you’re both on the same page. Check out the quick tips and think about these examples next time you meet with a recruitment professional.