Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: ethics

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

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.

3 Boundaries You Need to Set as an Independent Contractor

3 Boundaries You Need to Set as an Independent Contractor

IT contracting and running your own business has a number of perks, including the fact that, generally, you get to set your own rules. It’s your business and as long as you deliver on your contract, the rest of the decisions are yours. All too often though, independent contractors fall into a trap of trying to please everybody and deliver the best service to earn that reference. You do more than you need to, which is fantastic for your client, but not doing yourself any services.

As an IT contractor, it’s important to set boundaries with a number of people — your client, colleagues, recruiters, friends, family and even yourself. Few people in your life are out to take advantage of you maliciously, but the more you give them, the more they’ll take. Eventually, you’ll find yourself doing things that don’t align with your goals. Here are three types of boundaries you should be setting as an IT contractor:

Time Boundaries

Probably the most common boundary we think of, and also the one most of us can improve. Your time is valuable, and even if a client is willing to pay you for the extra time worked, it doesn’t mean you need to work more hours than agreed to in your contract. Set office hours so clients know when your day begins and ends. Let them know which hours they should not expect to receive an email response.

Your office hours should not only be communicated with your client. First, setting these boundaries with yourself allows you to optimize your personal time outside of office hours. Next, other people in your life need to be aware of the hours you choose to work. Independent contractors enjoy flexibility with their hours, but friends and family sometimes think that means you’re available to help or chat at the drop of a dime. They too need to know that although you can take an hour off to run to the store, you’ve already scheduled that time for your client’s work.

Finally, time boundaries can be set at a more micro level as well. For example, when scheduling meetings, decide on the topic and set the exact length of time you intend to be on that call. Do not let the topic shift or the timeframe to change.

Ethical Boundaries

Your integrity must be a top priority if you want to continue hearing from recruiters about new opportunities and getting called back by clients. Similar to how your time can creep away because you keep giving a little more, there are countless stories of people who kept pushing their ethical boundaries slightly over the line until eventually they found themselves in an unimaginable dilemma.

One example of a little white lie that can get out of control is lying on a resume. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for recruiters to see this happen. Perhaps you expand the length of a project to fit the job description criteria or claim you have plenty of experience with a technology even though you only touched it briefly on a project. Regardless, if this continues to happen with every job application, these little stretches can turn into big lies. If recruiters don’t recognize them by comparing different resumes and your LinkedIn profile, it will surely stand out when you finally land a contract and can’t deliver. You’ll end up being blacklisted by that staffing agency and the client.

There are many other ethical boundaries that can be pushed and lead down a slippery slope. Billing for an extra hour or two when you weren’t actually working, discussing confidential client information with close friends (they won’t tell anyone, right?), and lying about other opportunities to negotiate a better rate — these all seem minor but can quickly come back to bite you.

Client Relationship Boundaries

Finally, it is critical to set boundaries with your client to prevent yourself from being deemed as an employee. This is important for both you and your client. Should the CRA do an audit and decide that you were, in fact, an employee, you will both be on the hook for some serious, unexpected payments.

Many of these boundaries are simple and just require you not to get sucked into the client’s every day activities. For example, those office hour boundaries we discussed above are a good example to show that you operate under your own business’s policies, as opposed to the client’s. Furthermore, you want to refrain from attending company events typically reserved for employee appreciation or using too many office supplies and equipment paid for by the client. Your accountant or lawyer can help you better understand what other boundaries you should be setting to help separate yourself from your client’s employees.

Setting boundaries is a wise idea to maintain your work-life balance while building a strong relationship with your client… but it’s easier said than done. Take time early-on to know understand your boundaries, so you’re not setting them on-the-fly. Then, be upfront, honest and clear about your boundaries with clients, recruiters and anybody else who needs to know them.

What other boundaries do you set as an independent contractor? How do you ensure they’re respected by clients, colleagues, recruiters and others in your life?

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.

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.

The Growing Problem of Fraudulent Credentials (and the impact on honest consultants!)

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

The Growing Problem of Fraudulent Credentials (and the impact on honest consultants!)

Let me start by saying that the vast majority of contractors and applicants are 100% honest and represent themselves, their work and educational achievements fairly and correctly. That said, there is a growing issue in the labour market of people misrepresenting themselves in order to qualify for open postings. This may have been the case for years and it flew under the radar; however, with new vetting techniques and technology it is getting caught more and more often. Also, as more companies are being burned by fraudulent activity, they are both demanding and completing deeper vetting of candidates.

Misrepresentation takes multiple forms, from small embellishments and mis-matched dates covering small gaps in work experience, to much more nefarious activities. Some of the more brazen attempts to mislead potential employers include:

  • Presenting completely falsified resumes: This can be done as an individual doctoring their own resume, or there are “resume banks” available to people who pay to use them. This can include education or work experience falsification, but sometimes the entire resume is completely fabricated.
  • References are often faked: Friends, family or even themselves as the person who answers the phone number of the given reference.
  • Stand-ins for phone interviews (or even Skype interviews!!): Whereby someone with the actual knowledge completes the technical job interview on the fraudster’s behalf. The unwitting company hires and doesn’t realize that there was a change until they show up on the first day of work. If the company is complex enough, the people conducting the interview may not even be the same people who meet the new hire on the first day. Pretty brazen of them to try this!

It is unclear what people are trying to accomplish by faking their way into a job in these ways. It will catch up with them. They aren’t truly qualified to complete the work and they will be terminated, if not for the fraud then for incompetence. However, there are desperate people and if they can fake their way to earning even a few weeks’ pay before being found out then they move on to their next “victim”. It is too time-consuming and costly to press charges… and they get away with it.

What is the industry doing about this? Well, many companies are completing their own vetting even if they use a recruitment agency to source and qualify candidates. IT is a small industry and if someone says that they worked for XYZ Corp., then there is likely someone at the company that knows someone at the other company who can verify whether the candidate actually did what they said they did. Staffing agencies have been doing this for some time now and it is standard practice in the fight against fraudsters. Another check is simply a comparison against old resumes. Most agencies collect resumes from people over the course of many years – older experience in new resumes must match that found in their older resumes, and also in their LinkedIn profiles. References may not be called at the number given by the applicant, but rather they may be contacted via social media or called at their place of work using the company’s main number, making it much more difficult to arrange to have a “fake-someone” complete the interview. Additionally, there is now new technology (AI) being employed to rate the likelihood that an applicant is falsifying their resumes and there are new 3rd Party vetting services that specialize in deeper dives/forensic reviews and vetting. Most recruitment agencies employ one or more of these companies to ensure experience and education listed are accurate. There are also registries being set up that use blockchain technology to verify the accuracy of the data people share. Applicants will have full control over who receives and sees their private information, and the companies this is shared with will be guaranteed of its accuracy.

What is important for consultants to take away from all this is that the industry is now “awake” to resume/applicant fraud and is taking significant steps to uncover issues prior to hiring. 99%+ of people are honest and don’t need to be concerned; however, even honest people can make mistakes. I encourage anyone reading this to go through their resume with a fine-toothed comb to ensure all is completely accurate. It is so easy to mess something up with changes from one version of the resume to another. You absolutely should adapt your resume to best match the role to which you are applying, but adapting isn’t embellishing.  Even though the content might look different, it should still be in sync with what was presented in older resumes. The chance that even small inconsistencies are caught are very much more likely than it ever was before and these little, seemingly insignificant issues, could cost you a job for which you are applying. In this way, attention to detail is more critical than ever.

Is That Job Too Good to Be True?

Is That Job Too Good to Be True?

 

Scammers’ intelligence is growing exponentially and nobody is safe from their activities. While it’s common to hear about less tech-savvy people losing out, there are also plenty of examples of even the most cautious organizations being caught off-guard. In 2019 alone, multiple Canadian municipalities got stung. The City of Ottawa lost $128K, the City of Burlington was out $503K and Saskatoon lost $1 million!

Scams can have devasting effects, from losing lifesavings to having your entire identity stolen, and they come in multiple forms. As a job seeker, it’s especially important to remain vigilant when applying for jobs, as thieves can steal your personal information and destroy your world before you can blink. There are a number of these types of scams floating around the internet and, while fewer target IT contract job opportunities specifically, it’s still wise to recognize these warning signs:

  • A job posting or email looks extremely unprofessional, with too many errors or using a free email address (ex. Gmail or Yahoo).
  • You get contacted about a job to which you don’t remember ever applying, or even uploading your resume to where the recruiter claims they found it.
  • The recruiter asks for your personal information way too early in the job application process
  • You’re required to pay money up-front just to be considered.
  • The hiring manager offers you the job almost immediately, after just a few emails and a glance at your resume.
  • The job opportunity is too good to be true.

Many of these postings may still be legitimate. Recruiters have creative ways to find resumes of talented people, so it is not uncommon for them to contact you about a job, right out of the blue. It just means they’re impressed by your experience and want to learn more. In other cases, a job opportunity might appear to be unprofessional because the poster is inexperienced or in a rush (a sign that you can bring them value!)

When a job posting has too many red flags or your gut just isn’t feeling right about it, do not apply. But, if you are interested and believe it could be something great, here are some extra steps you can take:

  • Review the LinkedIn profile of the person or company who posted the job to see their experience and connections.
  • Check the URL of the job posting and confirm it is actually with the company the say they are. Look for weird spellings like “Gogle” instead of “Google” or somebody creating false subdomain like “eagleonline.supergreatjobs.co. Just because their logo is visible, it doesn’t make the website real.
  • Go directly to the organization’s website that you know is legitimate by typing in the URL directly or through a Google Search. Review that website to see if the job in question is actually posted and look for a physical address to cross-reference on a map.
  • Pick up the phone or show up at their office to speak to the recruiter directly. It’s too easy to be duped through email or instant messaging.

Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre provides more information about common job scams, as well as all other types of fraudulent activities. For more information or to report a scam, that is a great place to start. Happy job hunting… be careful out there!

You Should Never Just Up and Leave a Client, But Sometimes Life Happens

When you sign a contract, you make a commitment. A commitment to the client that you will perform specific work and a promise that you will be available to do that work for an agreed upon period of time. Both your client and your recruiter are trusting that you will uphold that contract in the same way that you are depending on them to deliver on their end of the deal.

As with everything in life, though, there are sometimes extenuating circumstances. On the client’s side, funding gets cut or for other reasons completely beyond their control, they are no longer able to continue working with you. On your end, perhaps you get sick or there is a family issue, and you are forced to end the contract before the scheduled end date.

In all cases, the party leaving the contract needs to do so properly in order to preserve the relationships. This video has some tips on how an independent contractor can help soften the blow if they need to leave their assignment suddenly.

Discussing Your Rate with Colleagues is Rarely Ever a Good Idea

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one. –Benjamin Franklin

I can’t count the number of times throughout my career that I have been approached by a contractor asking for an immediate increase to their hourly rate mid-contract. And when asked what has changed, the reason was not that the role had morphed into a more senior position with added responsibilities. Instead, it turned out that the contractor had discussed rates with a colleague and found out that there was discrepancy in rates and they were not earning as much as the individual sitting next to them on the project. While it is tempting to be a party to these conversations, in fact they can have serious negative consequences. Ask yourself the following questions next time you run into this scenario:

  1. Do you really have the complete story? There are so many variables that determine a contract rate and there is no way that you will likely ever have the complete story. Contract rates are based on project budgets and there can be ranges between rates for the same position. A hire early on in the process might have had access to a bigger pot but if you are hired last, there may have been less money left. Perhaps the person you are comparing yourself to had a history with the client and they were willing to pay more to get them. I’ve also seen a client hire a number of “senior” resources at a higher rate and then determine that they need to add someone but change the category to “intermediate” with lower rates. And are you completely certain that your colleague is telling you the truth. Some people feel very uncomfortable having this conversation and they may feel inclined to embellish the truth. The point is, we often end up making assumptions without having the full story.
  2. Didn’t you sign a contract? A contract is a contract and when you sign a legal document agreeing to the terms and conditions that exist within that contract, the expectation is that you will. Make sure you do the heavy lifting up front. Just as any business owner/operator should do, ask questions so that you understand completely and have considered everything about the role you are potentially signing up for, not just the qualifications needed, the end client or the duration and rate. You are running a business and ultimately are responsible for the decisions you make to accept or decline an opportunity. Can you imagine the contractor who has agreed to renovate your kitchen coming to you in the middle of the renovation demanding more money because they’ve heard that a fellow contractor got more money for doing a kitchen down the block. They wouldn’t and for good reason!
  3. Are you thinking long term? Trying to renegotiate your contract in the middle demonstrates short term thinking and rarely turns out positive. You risk destroying relationships and burning bridges, something I have witnessed countless times. Instead, before you act on your assumptions, go back to the reasons you accepted the contract in the first place — the technology, the location, the duration, whatever it was that made it attractive. Think about the valuable relationships you’ve forged with your Recruiter, the client and your colleagues on the project. Then think about what delivering a successful outcome will mean when you are pursuing your next project. The more you build your reputation as a professional and the more you are associated with positive project outcomes, the easier it is to negotiate higher rates for future contracts.

I believe that if you want to make more money, the trick is to be patient, think like an entrepreneur, be professional and good things will happen. So next time, instead of getting caught up in the moment and feeling like someone has taken advantage of you, don’t lose track of the end goal.

A Look at How Developers Think (thanks to Stack Overflow)

Early last month we shared some results from the 2018 Stack Overflow Survey that showed trends in the most used technologies and what jobs bring in the most money for developers. That’s all great, but you see those trends all the time. Fortunately Stack Overflow also asks its respondents some more unique questions which results in interesting findings about the way developers think. Here are a few of our favourite highlights:

Belonging and Career Satisfaction

Apparently, life as a developer is like a fine wine: it gets better with time. The survey asked respondents about their kinship or connection with other developers, the competition they feel at work and if they feel their peers are better than them. The results are clear. As developers get more experience, life becomes better at work, with less competition. This is in line with some additional findings in the survey, that showed career satisfaction is more prevalent among older developers (ages 50+) who have more than 20 years of professional experience.

Belonging and Career Satisfaction

Ethics

Stack Overflow also took a dive into the topic of ethics this year and the good news is, most developers say they are ethical professionals when considering what projects to take on. More than half of developers surveyed say they would refuse to write code for unethical purposes and another 36.6% said they would carefully consider what it is before agreeing to do so. Unfortunately, there are still 4.8% of developers out there who would have no problems writing code for unethical purposes.

If developers were to discover unethical code, nearly half would report it and about 75% of them would keep it within the company. Most of the rest say it would depend on the situation, but there remain that 5% who would will look the other way.

While few developers believe that they would be ultimately responsible for code that accomplishes something unethical, the good news is that about 80% of developers do agree that they have an obligation to consider the ethical implications of their code

The Future of AI

Finally, Stack Overflow took an interesting look at where developers believe Artificial Intelligence is going and what effects it will have on our future. While many are excited about the potential, such as increasing automation of jobs and algorithms to make important decisions, others are concerned about those very same things and believe it to be dangerous. In general, more than 70% of developers are more excited about AI’s possibilities than its dangers.

What Developers Think About AI

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what you’ll find in the 2018 Stack Overflow survey. Check out their website for more information, such as how developers are looking for jobs, demographics of developers around the world, and career-specific information.

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

It’s not uncommon for recruiters to notice certain inconsistencies in independent contractors’ experience. In a few extreme cases, we interview candidates only to learn that they have no clue what they’re talking about and clearly made up experience to get their foot in the door. More commonly, though, after comparing different versions of resumes or asking a few detailed questions, we learn that a contractor may have stretched the truth a bit in order to qualify.

While we never encourage these actions and know that lies always get uncovered eventually, we thought we’d take the opportunity of this month’s anonymous contractor quick poll to learn how many people lie or stretch the truth on their resume.