Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: inside scoop

All posts in the Talent Development Centre, written by recruiters, with an inside look at Eagle and other staffing agencies.

Why You Should Complete a Skills Matrix and the Secret to Filling One Out

Melissa Bryanton By Melissa Bryanton,
Proposal Manager at Eagle

Have you ever been contacted by a Recruiter who had a great IT contract opportunity where you’re perfectly qualified, but when they send you the details, it includes a massive skills matrix to complete? Suddenly, the job application that you thought would only require a quick resume update and email is turning into a daunting, time-consuming project. You think: Is this job even worth it? Why is the Recruiter wasting my time?

Why You Should Complete a Skills Matrix and the Secret to Filling One OutThe last thing the Recruiter wants to do is waste your time. However, they do need your help highlighting your relevant experience and qualifications that make you a great fit for the job. You would be wise to question any Recruiter who claims they can take your resume as-is, update it and complete the matrix for you. While this seems like a great time-saver, you are the only person who can legitimately explain how your experience matches the client’s job requirements. The risks in allowing an agency to take your resume and run with it is: 1) the resume becomes full of fabricated experience that may or may not make sense – not all recruiters may understand the complexity of your skills or 2) you and the Recruiter spend a lot more time going back and forth on the details in the 11th hour. The outcome of either scenario is going to be negative. Collaborating with the Recruiter on tailoring your resume and completing the matrix is the best option to increase your chances of winning the contract.

What is a Grid/Matrix?

A matrix, also sometimes referred to as a grid, is client-mandated, and usually required when the staffing agency must submit a proposal to their client in response to an RFP, rather than simply submitting a few resumes to the client. The matrix is a document with a table that the client developed, which often includes mandatory and point-rated requirements in one column, and a space in the other column for the candidate to explain their relevant experience and qualifications. The purpose of the matrix is to demonstrate how the candidate meets all the client’s requirements.

What Makes a Successful Matrix?

The key to submitting a winning matrix to a client is detail. Usually, if a candidate is requested through an RFP process, it means 1) there will be many other applicants, and 2) the client must back-up their selection by clearly demonstrating they chose the candidate who meets all the job requirements. As such, if you want a shot at winning a contract that requires a proposal submission, you must be prepared to show as much evidence of your experience as possible.

What Should You Do If Your IT Contract Requires a Matrix?

If your Recruiter tells you your submission will require you to complete a matrix or grid, try not to run for the hills. Keep in mind that many other candidates will also pass up on the opportunity, so you’re already more competitive by proceeding. Here are a few tips to make the process easier and more efficient for yourself:

  • Don’t Panic! Matrices can look challenging with way too much of a time commitment. They can also be confusing. If you open a matrix and immediately feel the pit in your stomach, then contact your Recruiter. The good ones will walk you through the process, explain the requirements, and help you confirm your chances at winning the contract.
  • Start Right Away. As mentioned, matrices are usually associated with RFPs, which have hard deadlines. When a Recruiter tells you they need your information by a certain day, there is little to no flexibility. Therefore, start working on matching your experience to the requirements as quickly as possible.
  • Build Out Your Resume. Matrices actually provide a major competitive advantage in a job search because the client reveals exactly what they are looking for. Go through the matrix, item by item, and highlight all the relevant experience in your resume. If more detail is needed, tailor your experience in your resume and explain how you meet each requirement. Don’t be concerned if your resume becomes extremely long – the “2 to 5-page resume” advice doesn’t apply to RFP responses as the client is looking for as much detail as possible.
  • Quickly Cross-Reference to Your Resume. Number each contract or project in your resume for cross-referencing purposes. Without writing any content in the matrix, go through each item and refer to the project or contract in your resume where you have the relevant experience. Also include the length of time of each project or contract, to quickly see how well you qualify for this role, or if you’re coming up short against any of the requirements.

The Overall Secret to Completing a Skills Matrix

The best advice for completing a matrix is to focus on your resume. We often see candidates get fixated on that matrix and wanting to write specific explanations, but if those details are not backed-up in your resume, they will mean nothing. Instead, spend your time expanding on your experience in your resume. Even if you think a task is implied or too basic, if it will help prove you meet a requirement in the matrix, write about it in your resume. As long as you meet their deadlines, a good staffing agency will confirm you meet the requirements, polish your resume and develop the matrix to meet the client’s very stringent RFP response criteria. Matrices can be complex and seemingly impossible, but with the right staffing agency they shouldn’t be time-consuming or overwhelming.

Technology Recruiters’ “Unwritten Rules”

Technology Recruiters' "Unwritten Rules"We understand. IT contractors would prefer not to have to work with recruiters at all. In a perfect world, clients would contact you directly and you’d arrange your own contracts saving everybody the fuss of using a middle man.

Clients prefer to work with recruitment agencies because it saves them money, risk, and hassle. Independent contractors also have plenty to gain from building a relationship with recruiters, including the reduced risk, as well as exclusive access to unlisted project opportunities and resume and interview advice. The key to building that solid relationship is understanding how to work best with recruiters.

In the past year, the Talent Development Centre shared many inside tips about working with recruiters. The Secret to Being Called First by a Recruiter explained how to stay “top-of-mind”. How to Get on a Recruiter’s Bad Side told you how to do the opposite. Cameron McCallum, Regional Vice-President at Eagle, also wrote about some specific communication tips with recruiters, and another post summarized Eagle’s recruiters’ favourite and least favourite traits of IT contractors.

In addition to the articles referenced above, if you’re looking for similar advice but perhaps with a less biased view, check out this article from the Dice  Insights Blog written by Leslie Stevens-Huffman. She discusses five ground rules for working with tech recruiters, and refers to them as “recruiting’s unwritten rules of engagement.”

  1. Don’t Waste Their Time
  2. Honesty About Your Hands-On Experience
  3. Let Them Do Their Jobs
  4. Show Respect for Their Abilities
  5. User Your Power in a Positive Way

Would you agree with Stevens-Huffman or argue that some of these rules shouldn’t always apply. Are there any rules you’d add for a successful relationship with a recruiter? Vice-versa, are there any rules of engagement you believe all recruiters should always follow? Leave your opinion in the comments below — we’d love to hear from you!

5 Things Recruiters Hate About Your Resume (Video)

For IT Contractors, recruiters are the gatekeepers of your employment destiny as they are the ones who read and evaluate your resume. If they like what they see, you’ll move on in the process; if not your hopes for that role are over and your jobs search starts over again. So, it is pretty important to tailor your resume to what they want to see.  This quick video shows you 5 things you absolutely must avoid having on your resume, under any circumstances, no matter what, if you want to keep your recruiter happy!

Are You Awesome or Annoying? (Video)

If given the choice, we hope that you would prefer to be awesome rather than annoying, especially in the eyes of recruiters and clients when they’re interviewing you for a gig. Of course, we all think we’re awesome, but are you really that great… or are you kind of annoying?

Don’t stay up all night worrying about what recruiters think of you. Instead, have a look at this video we created with input from our recruiters and confirm if they think you’re awesome or annoying. If you fall in the annoying category, perhaps it’s time to change some habits.

2016 in Review: Working with Staffing Agencies

2016 in Review: The Inside Scoop on Working with Staffing AgenciesThere are many benefits to working with staffing agencies. Topping the list is that we help IT contractors connect with the top clients and the best technology projects. Naturally, then, being able to build relationships and work with recruiters provides a major competitive advantage. The Talent Development Centre is all about growing independent contractors’ success, so 2016 was packed with inside information on how you can enhance your relationship with employment agencies.

Top-of-Mind Candidates

The best position for you to be in is as one of your recruiters’ “top-of-mind” candidates. To provide insight on this topic and help you achieve this spot, we surveyed our recruiters to learn more about being top-of-mind. The result was a series of posts, including these:

Building a Relationship with a Recruiter

Of course, it all starts with a solid relationship with your recruiter. These posts will help you develop that relationship.

Choosing the Right Staffing Agency

Finally, the most important part of building a relationship with a staffing agency is to make sure you’ve chosen the right one. We always recommend you build relationships with at least three recruiters from different agencies. In this post, Frances McCart, VP Business Development, provides advice on how to choose that partner.

2016 in Review: Business of Independent Contracting

2016 in Review: The Business of Independent ContractingIt’s well-known that successful independent contractors are hard workers, experts in their field and know the best ways to keep a steady flow of work. Something often over-looked by an outsider is all of the extra work an independent contractor has to do just to manage their business. Since we know that IT contracting goes beyond searching for jobs and working on projects, the Talent Development Centre is filled with helpful business tips and contracting advice.

Taking the Leap into Independent Contracting

Just getting into contracting can be a scary endeavor, which is why we posted these articles to help IT professionals in that situation:

Managing Your Independent Contracting Business

We also shared these posts to help manage the business once it’s moving:

Inside Scoop from Eagle’s Executive Team

One of the greatest benefits of the Talent Development Centre is the inside scoop we provide from our executives, who work closely with industry associations. As a result, 2016 also saw these policy-related articles:

What did we miss in 2016? Use the comments below to tell us what you want to learn more about next year.

2016 in Review: Resumes

Year in Review: ResumesYesterday we summarized the top job search tips that were shared on the Talent Development Centre throughout 2016. You may have noticed, there was a very important element missing: resumes!

Every job search must start with an outstanding resume. Here are just a few of the many articles we posted in the past year on this topic:

Plus these ones, which were written with direct input from Eagle’s Recruiters and Management Team:

Are there any specific resume tips you’d like to see in the Talent Development Centre in 2017? We’d love your feedback. Please let us know in the comments below.

2016 in Review: Job Searching

2016 in Review: Job Search AdviceA job search has a number of aspects to it and nobody understands that better than an independent contractor who’s always looking out for new opportunities. Beyond knowing how to spruce up your resume and ace an interview, to be really successful, you have to understand the ins and outs of job search strategies.

Basic Job Search Tips

For starters, here are a few basic job search tips:

Advice for Your Next Job Interview

A major milestone in your search is the job interview. Here are the top posts we shared this year on that topic:

Insight from Eagle’s Executive Team

Finally, here are some posts with insight from Eagle’s own Executive Team:

Why Share Your Compensation History with a Recruiter?

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
National Delivery Manager at Eagle

Should You Share Your Compensation History with a Recruiter?I came across an article recently that was quite interesting to me personally, and it certainly seemed to be a contentious topic with 488 comments, 6200 likes and 1364 forwards in a few short weeks.  Apparently, (and previously unbeknownst to me), Massachusetts recently passed a new bill preventing employers from requiring salary histories from job applicants.

As a recruiter with 20 years of experience, most of that in permanent placement (in both retained and contingent firms) I found the commentary very interesting.  Most who commented very passionately agreed that recruiters had no right to ask for compensation history, and felt that the ask was ‘unethical’ and a means to get a candidate to the lowest salary possible.

It is very rare that I have had a candidate flat out refuse to share their compensation information with me, but it has happened on occasion.  It always makes me very reluctant to represent them as I find it difficult to effectively negotiate on their behalf, and it often leads me to wonder whether they are looking for a substantial increase over their current compensation that may be outside of the norm.

I always explain to candidates that the initial compensation conversation is between us, and how I choose to position that to an employer can and will be discussed and agreed upon with their input.  As much as I’m unwilling to just throw out an employer’s ‘range’, I’m as unwilling to invest the time in representing someone to a client without having a full understanding of their motivation, expectations, and employment history (including compensation).

It is not unrealistic to expect a substantial increase in some cases and if it is justified, particularly if there are extenuating circumstances like relocation, being long tenured within one organization, niche areas of expertise, an imminent increase or bonus, or just being a passive job seeker who is completely content where they currently are.  If someone’s expectations are beyond what would be considered standard, I can justify that to an employer if I have a full understanding of all considerations involved.

Obviously, it’s important for a recruiter to understand that your expectations are in line with an employer’s range before time is invested on all sides, but should the history of what you have earned be a factor of consideration?  Or should the market rates, your experience and the employers range be the only criteria?  I welcome your thoughts/input below.

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.