Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: communication

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian IT Contractors relating to communication.

2016 in Review: The Softer Skills of Work

2016 in Review: The Softer Skills of WorkYesterday we shared some of 2016’s top articles and tools about training and development so you can start setting your technical skills development goals this year. While these skills make it so you can successfully complete a project, recruiters and clients alike are looking for more than your abilities. They want to know how personable you are and how advanced your “soft skills” are.

How important is it to keep these skills refreshed? Every member of Eagle’s Executive Team touched on it in 2016:

These skills include everything from basic workplace etiquette…

…to proper communication in various situations.

Finally, and possibly most importantly for a busy IT contractor, is time management. Everybody can always improve in this area, so we encourage you to check out at least one of these posts:

Deciphering 3 Common Recruiter Calls and Emails

By Brendhan Malone (Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle) and Graeme Bakker (Recruitment Team Lead at Eagle)

Deciphering 3 Common Recruiter Calls and EmailsRecruiters know that contractors get tons of calls and emails throughout the day.  Recruiters also know that time is valuable and we want to make the process of finding your next contract as stress free and smooth as possible.

Once you’ve decided on your staffing agency with the best candidate experience, it’s important to know exactly what your recruiter is looking for when you receive these common phone calls or emails:

Scheduling a Phone Interview:

When a recruiter calls or sends an email about scheduling a phone interview they just want to make sure these three things are a go:

  • You’re available to do the phone interview at the time the client has provided.
  • You will be in a location with no distractions or phone issues.
  • Let the recruiter know if you want to touch base to discuss anything prior to the phone interview. Reply with a couple times that you are available to prep and the recruiter will appreciate being able to work around your schedule.

Interview Feedback:

When a recruiter calls or emails you for interview feedback, this is why they’re doing it:

  • They want to know if it was positive for you and if you’re still interested in continuing with the process. If you are positive about the interview and more excited about the opportunity, your recruiter wants to relay that information to the client.
  • If you have negative feedback or any questions/concerns about the interview, your recruiter wants to know about it. This way they can answer any questions you might have or smooth over any concerns you have going forward with the process.
  • Eliminate any surprises. The recruiter wants to confirm the possibility of any other offer or opportunities on the table.  Are you more in favour of this role that you interviewed for than another?  Would you accept this opportunity should they come back to us with an offer?  The recruiter wants to make sure that you don’t miss out on any opportunities.

Resume Review:

You’ve received a call and/or email from a recruiter about a role.  You’re interested in the role and are qualified for it.  You just sent the recruiter your updated resume, so why does the recruiter need to chat with me?

In this competitive MSP driven job market, what is in your head NEEDS to be on the resume.  The person first seeing your resume and determining if it should go on is very rarely the technical manager responsible for hiring.  Recruiters know we can leave nothing to chance in this environment.

  • Recruiters know that if you are a front-end developer, you have experience with HTML and CSS. We might not be that technical but we know that!  If you have 10 years of development experience and 8 years of HTML and CSS experience it needs to be in the resume!
  • We know it can be frustrating to answer basic questions about your skills and then add it to your resume, but recruiters are doing it for your benefit. They know that if they don’t correctly put where you have had this experience send your resume won’t get past the gatekeepers and over to the hiring manager.
  • If you get back to the recruiter with a couple minutes to chat and answer those questions you will have the benefit of knowing you are hitting all the marks described in the job description. As an added bonus, your staffing agency will l have an updated resume on file that is correctly updated.

Understanding what’s inside a recruiter’s head may not always seem simple, but it’s easier then you may think. In the end, we all share the same goal of getting you placed into the right contract. This insight into these three common conversations recruiters have with you will let you stop trying to read between the lines and focus on your business.

How to Improve Relationships During Your Job Search

Getting Better at This Will Improve Your Relationships with Clients and Recruitment Agencies

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

Getting Better at This Will Improve Your Relationships with Clients and Recruitment AgenciesPeople crave feedback.  Most of us would prefer positive feedback but we know that the negative feedback is important too.  It may not be what you want to hear, but what you needed to hear.  For example, properly taken, feedback can give an IT professional the opportunity to make adjustments before a project gets too far off the tracks.  For this to work the best, one should solicit feedback early and often.

For independent contractors, feedback can be much more than just gathering ideas for improvement.  At its best, it is also about relationship building and requires you to be great at both receiving and giving.  When you are engaged in a discussion regarding feedback with your client or recruitment agency, you are saying that you care about the deliverable, that you care about the project, and that your good reputation and your relationship with the other entity is important as well.  It is hard to over-communicate in this respect.

As a staffing agency, Eagle cherishes our independent contractor partners that reach out to let us know how things are going — what’s going well and what could be better.  It keeps us in the loop and minimizes surprises.  We encourage our client contacts to do the same.   When we hear dissonance between the two sources, then we know we have an issue that needs to be worked out.  There’s often opportunity to “fix” an issue before it becomes a real problem.

Employment agencies do their best to connect at least once per month with the contractors that they have on assignment. If your recruiter reaches out to you to follow up, take that opportunity to really share how your assignment is shaping up.  It could be the best 20 minute investment of time that you make that day.

First Understand, Then Be Understood

Then to Be Understood: A Habit of Highly Effective Independent Contractors

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

Seek First to Understand…Then to Be Understood: A Habit of Highly Effective Independent ContractorsSo says Habit 5 of Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I am struck by just how much this simple rule might change the world for the better would we all decide to practice it just some of the time. And of course it applies to all phases of our lives, be it personal or professional. The beauty of it lies in its simplicity and seemingly utter complexity in putting it into play. So how does it impact you as an IT Consultant trying to make a living in the complex world of independent contracting and dealing with staffing agents and their myriad esoteric processes and procedures?

  1. Start in Neutral – How we respond to others is so often conditioned on our preconceptions of what we think is about to occur. I know that when I answer the telephone around dinnertime, and there is a significant delay before the other party speaks, that I’m likely about to engage with a telemarketer, and that brings about a whole set of responses, including how I’m going to disengage. But how many times have I been surprised to learn that when I just stopped and really listened, there was something valuable to be gained. When a recruiter calls, listen carefully to what they are telling you, about their client, about their requirement, about their practice. Instead of thinking that you know the game and this call will be the same as others you have received, it might pay dividends to start the call in neutral and determine next steps after you’ve had a chance to hear what is being said.
  2. Stop Planning Your Response – The single most common listening error is planning your reply while the other party is speaking. The aforementioned Telemarketers, especially the smart ones, often know exactly what you are planning to say and have a ready response to attempt to overcome your objections. It pays to be prepared for certain types of discussions but don’t hijack a discussion because you are too busy planning your comeback. You may be risking an unnecessary misunderstanding because you couldn’t stop your mind long enough to listen. Successful contractors learn to listen to what the client is saying, what is important to them and what they are trying to achieve…and your part in the process. Careful listening prevents risking prescription before diagnosis!
  3. Practice Reflective Listening – Repeating or affirming what you think you heard is the surest way of ensuring you understand completely what is being said by the other party. This is a skill so often talked about but so rarely used effectively. Part of it has to do with numbers 1 and 2 above… we have already planned the conversation out in our minds that we believe we know the outcome. Take a step back, listen carefully to what you are being told and then simply repeat it. Not only will it help you to gather the information you need, but it will act to slow down the process, something we could all use in our busy and hectic work days.
  4. It’s a Two-Way Street – If you listen to someone, and are fully engaged and respectful, it should be that the other person owes you the same. Did you ever notice how off putting it was when a person you were meeting with glanced at their watch, or worse yet checked a phone email right when you were speaking. Negotiations go off course all the time simply because neither party really hears what the other person is saying. Mutually respectful discourse and working hard to listen and understand what the other person is saying is integral to any discussion.  You owe it to yourself as a professional to practice your listening skills.

IT Professionals Should Improve This Essential Skill

Helping non-tech savvy people through an IT task can be an extremely frustrating ordeal for a technology contractor. Sometimes, no matter how you explain it, your client or your client’s employees can’t seem to get anything right or, worse, keep messing things up to make the situation worse.

We shared an infographic last month that helps IT professionals dumb down certain tech terms to explain them more easily, but even with this knowledge, there are certain skills you need to be successful in this situation. At the end of the day, you’re helping a client, which means customer service is a must and a key to great customer service is outstanding communication.

This instructional video from Wisc-Online approaches the subject very well. It talks specifically about how IT professionals — from those in tech support to those leading large projects — can improve communication when delivering customer service.

Getting Along at Your Client’s Site

Tips for Dealing with Permanent Employees Who Hate Independent Contractors

Tips for Dealing with Permanent Employees Who Hate Independent ContractorsWhen you consider moving from being an employee to an independent contractor, you weigh all of the pros and cons, considering new challenges such as accounting, insurance, and the risk of being out of work. One challenge new IT contractors sometimes don’t consider is dealing with the negative feelings and the cold reception they sometimes get from a client’s full-time employees.

Building relationships at a new client site is challenging enough, and when employees already have a negative pre-conceived idea of you, you will find yourself starting from behind. So how can you deal with these permanent employees and their bad attitudes, while also building a productive working relationship?

Start by understanding why they resent you

The employee failed to understand your situation and made assumptions, so don’t intensify the issue by falling into the same behaviour. Although you may not agree, keep their point-of-view in mind and consider these reasons that your client’s FTEs may dislike you and your fellow independent contractors:

  • They find out that their company, who they’ve been loyal to for many years, is paying you a lot more;
  • Employees have to deal with the entire job, including office politics, performance reviews, training sessions and admin tasks, whereas contractors get to do only the core work;
  • Independent contractors come in, do the high-profile “fun” tasks, then leave the IT employees to “clean up the mess” and do the grunt work; and,
  • By nature, independent contractors are experts in their field so tend to be more focused and productive. If management hasn’t communicated the IT contractor’s role properly, this is threatening to employees.

Take the highroad and start building that relationship

Depending on the scope of work in your technology contract, odds are you will need that good report with employees if you’re going to be successful, so start building it immediately. It’s up to you to be the grown-up, positive person, so try some of these tactics:

  • Communicate well, especially when explaining your role and that you’re not there to take their job;
  • Be generous of your time by offering training and mentoring;
  • Avoid coming off as a jerk, patronising, or acting above the employees. This can happen unintentionally when trying to pass on your knowledge, so be selective of your words;
  • Stay out of office politics or exposing lazy employees. Simply do your job and help the employees look good; and,
  • Refrain from talking about money or answering their questions as to how much you make. Where figures do get exposed, take the time to explain all of your extra costs. If you do make significantly more than employees, avoid flashing your success in front of them.

Some people won’t change. They’re bitter, disgruntled employees who are going to despise you no matter what you do or how hard you try. Like every other person you come into contact with who is like this, don’t put energy into them. Your options are to put up with it for the duration of your contract, work from a different location (home office?) or, if it’s really bad and you’ve explored all possible avenues with no end in sight, start looking for a new contract.

Do you have experience dealing with permanent employees who didn’t want you in their office? Is there any advice you would offer to a new contractor? We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tips for Women in IT to Appear More Confident (Video)

There is no argument that female independent contractors working in technology face more challenges than their male counterparts. From the loneliness of being a minority to the proven pay gaps, IT is not an easy industry for women. There are many theories as to why this could be, none of which we’ll discuss in today’s post. Instead, we’re going to help minimize one challenge by sharing some advice to help female IT leaders improve their communication.

This helpful video we found from Forbes points out body language mistakes that some women make. Specifically, it provides four tips to help a female IT contractor appear more credible, powerful and confident, either when meeting with a recruiter, discussing business with a client, or leading a team through a project.

Never Say These 6 Words in an Interview (Video)

Independent IT contractors spend a lot of time in interviews — with clients, with recruiters, with end-users — and each of these interviews are often when you’ll set a first impression. Due to the high-pressure nature of them, especially job interviews, we tend to use vocabulary that comes easily and naturally to us. This is when words sneak into our sentences that affect how a listener perceives us.

It takes intensive practice and comfort to avoid all stutters and small miscommunications, but this video from BI Success suggests 6 words to start eliminating in your vocabulary which will make you sound smarter. This is not only great advice for job interviews, but also for your everyday professional life.

How to Tell a Client’s Employees They Suck

How to Tell a Client's Employees They SuckIt’s not unusual for independent contractors to suffer backlash from the full-time employees at their client site. You’re sometimes seen as a know-it-all who’s coming in to take their work. That means, that when there’s feedback to give and change to recommend, you’re likely to see some sort of resistance.

Delivering this sort of news is common for independent contractors, and many have mastered the art. For others, it’s still an uncomfortable situation or you always find it blowing up in your face. Here are a few simple pointers you can keep in mind next time you need to move a project in a different direction.

Don’t Assume They’re Wrong

It’s important to remain humble and accept that there may be more than just one way (your way) to do something. There are many variables involved in any decision, and whichever choice you disagree with may have also had some factors associated with it. Ensure you understand the full picture, including all of the client’s goals, resources and limitations, to better understand why they’re going in the direction they selected. If you still think they’re on the wrong track, then this exercise may help you uncover the root of the problem or develop a better fitting solution.

Prepare an Effective Feedback Strategy

Before you start explaining how you disagree, ensure that you’ve set up an environment and scenario where your feedback will be understood and compelling. For example, is it something that needs to be said to only one person in private, or do you need to call a meeting to discuss it with an entire team? You also need to consider timing. Providing the feedback immediately will keep the project from continuing in the current direction, but casually mentioning it in the lobby won’t allow for optimal communication. Finally, especially if your comments have potential to start a heated disagreement, refrain from email at all costs; the tone will never come across as you desired.

It’s All in the Delivery

How you say it is more important than what you’re saying. As already noted, it’s important to choose your timing. If your meeting is impromptu, then don’t surprise your client and team members. Open up by asking if you can give some feedback. When you start, be brief, factual, direct and calm. It’s also important that you choose your words wisely. Avoid negative words like “can’t” or “but” and be inclusive with “we could try this” rather than “you need to do that.” Finally, depending on how technical your audience is, you may need to refrain from too much jargon, to make sure they accurately understand the situation.

Get the Most Buy-In

You’ll know you succeeded at telling your client and the employees they’re wrong when they buy into it, rather than being left in an angry state. To achieve this, start to demonstrate your expertise the moment you come onto the site. We’re not recommending you always show them up by flaunting your knowledge, but instead, show your professionalism in simple ways like dressing properly and being punctual for meetings. Build a relationship of trust by mentoring full-time employees so they can learn with you, rather than feeling inferior. When you do give your feedback, come prepared with suggestions that match the overall project goals and backed up with facts and past experiences. Above all, when possible, work with the client and team to develop a solution together.

Feedback on a project is never easy to give, especially when it’s to people who may not be open to it or are dedicated to the current method. Following the tips above should help but above all, remember to pick your battles. Make recommendations in your areas of expertise (what you were called in to do) or it may come off as telling others how to do their work. In addition, be prepared for rejection. The changes you recommend may not happen and that’s ok. If you want to keep working on the contract, you will need to suck it up so you can move a project forward to success.

How to Communicate Effectively at Work

A couple weeks ago, we shared a post with tips to come across as confident, not arrogant, either when working with clients or meeting with a technology recruiter at a staffing agency. This is just one element of great communication that can make a difference in a job interview, but even more importantly, while on contract.

The ability to effectively communicate your point helps explain requirements to clients, provide instructions to employees, and sell your ideas. Even if you think you’re already amazing in this area, we recommend you have a look at this infographic from Davitt. Especially when discussing complex technologies, great communication can be the difference between a project’s success or failure.

How to Communicate Effectively at Work the Ultimate Cheat Sheet #infographic