Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: interview tips

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

From Standard to Stand-Out

Brianne Risley By Brianne Risley,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

Turning “Good” Interview Responses into “Great” Ones

From Standard to Stand-Out -- Turning "Good" Interview Responses into "Great" OnesAs a professional recruiter, I am often struck by how many job seekers answer common interview questions in the exact same way.  Technically, there is nothing wrong with giving an “OK” answer that 4 out of every 5 people will give.  It’s safe.  But for the job you WANT, your response to every question should help you Stand-Out and offer the hiring manager a taste of your ‘unique value proposition’.

Here’s an example of a common question that you can turn from a Standard response into one that Stands-Out!

The Situation: You are asked by the Hiring Manger to describe your experience with a tool / skill you do not have.  How do you tackle this?

The Standard Response: “It’s not hard… I can learn it.”

Consider this:

  • “I can learn it” is a nice sentiment, but you’re asking the hiring manager to essentially ‘take your word for it’ with no facts, figures, or scenarios to provide them context. “Trust me” isn’t a strong value proposition.  Give the hiring manager a map of how you’ve handled a similar challenge in the past and come out on top!
  • The skill is clearly a pain-point, or the hiring manager wouldn’t be asking about it. Sometime, somewhere, this manager had a bad experience with someone lacking this skill.  A Stand-Out response will acknowledge the skill as an important one, and offer a ‘sell-message’ outlining your past success learning new skills.

How does this help you stand out from other candidates who can also ‘learn it’, or worse, those that “have” it!  Here is a better way!

The Stand-Out Response: “I can see why that is important to you.  I haven’t yet had the opportunity to work with that exact version; however, as an Analyst at XYZ Company, I was faced with learning a similar tool with very little ramp-up time.  I reviewed training on my own time, collaborated with co-workers, and attended industry events to come up-to-speed and producing with the tool within 4 weeks.  Before leaving that company, I even had the opportunity to train new users on it.  Would that approach work in your environment, Ms. Hiring Manager?”

Here’s the framework:

  • Acknowledge the need is an important one
  • Provide a specific time and place where you learned/used a very similar skillset
  • Outline how you used your own initiative to learn it
  • Outline the success you had in learning it
  • Get the hiring manager’s acknowledgement that your approach would work in their environment.

That’s a response that a Hiring Manager can take to their boss or HR to argue in favor of hiring YOU over someone who has the skill.

Do you have an interview question that you’d like a recruiter’s perspective on?  Add a comment – we would love to take your response from “standard” to “stand-out”!

10 Reasons to Take a Face-to-Face Interview with a Recruiter

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

10 Reasons to Take a Face-to-Face Interview with a RecruiterA recruiter asks you to come in for an interview but you have so much on the go. What do you do? Should you blow them off? After all, you’ve already sent over a resume and had talked to them over the phone about what kind of work you want. What more could a face-to-face interview possibly do for you?

Face-to-face interviews with recruiters are more than you may think! Here are 10 reasons to take that interview and increase your chance of getting the next job you’ve been wanting.

  1. Your Recruiter Will Remember You in the Future. Science shows that we remember faces far easier than we remember emails.  🙂
  2. Face-to-Face is Second-to-None. There is simply no technological replacement for face-to-face interaction… including Skype/video interviews!
  3. Get Across What Your Resume Can’t. Communication is over 90% non-verbal.
  4. Your Recruiter Will Better Understand You. Inevitably an unknown skill or strength of yours is going to come out in a face-to-face meeting.
  5. It Will Help Your Recruiter Sell You. Recruiters are not only interviewing you, but also working to provide the strongest presentation of your skills and attributes to the end client. You have a mutual objective.
  6. Its great practice! In today’s business market, IT skills are not enough.  We should use every opportunity available to hone communication and networking skills.
  7. It’s Efficient. Relationships are built more quickly, strongly and efficiently in face-to-face meetings. Recent surveys have shown that it takes five Skype/video meetings to equal one face-to-face meeting.  It’s a safe leap to surmise that the number of emails required to do the same would be incredibly high, and very likely still not reach anywhere near the same level of rapport.
  8. Build Trust. Face-to-face meetings foster a greater sense of trust and commitment to honesty. People are able to “dehumanize” written email communication.  Most people are committed to doing right by others, face-to-face meetings foster relationships which allow for the humanization of the communication, therefore resulting in more people doing the “right thing”.
  9. You will learn something valuable. It is almost impossible for two professionals to communicate without learning something. Recruiter and contractor meetings/interviews offer a great opportunity for each to learn about the others profession and craft.  We are working together in the end!
  10. Meeting with people is FUN! Approach these sessions positively and with enthusiasm and hopefully it will be remembered as a very positive experience.

Top 10 Job Interview Tips (Video)

Even the most seasoned independent contractors can polish up their job interview skills. The problem is, you’ve heard all of the same tips by now. Boring advice such as “Be prepared”, “Stay positive,” and “Demonstrate your accomplishments” may not be cutting it. Instead, you need to differentiate yourself. Thankfully, Michael Spicer from BBC Three created this light hearted, fun video of job interview tips you haven’t heard. (Note: Please don’t actually consider these suggestions with interviewing at Eagle.)

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.

You Have a Job Interview… Now What???

Cathy Marks By Cathy Marks,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

You Have a Job Interview... Now What???It’s important to work with your recruiter and obtain enough information to put your mind at ease before an interview with a client for an IT contract. You want to gather as much information possible about the client and technology project to ensure you arrive at the interview without stress; you need to make a perfect first impression.

Here is Some Information Required for Job Interview Prep:

  • Location: Ensure you have the correct logistics for the job interview. Correct client address, floor number, and parking if available. View the location on Google Earth. This will allow you to picture the building before you get there.
  • Date, Time and Duration: Reconfirm you have the correct date and time for the interview. Ensure you have saved enough time so you are not be rushed during your interview.
  • Job Description: Obtain a detailed job description from your recruiter. If the job description is vague, work with your recruiter to identify people who have worked in this role in the past and learn what their responsibilities were.
  • Hiring Manager Details: Ask who you will be interviewing with — is it a panel interview or just one person? Research your interviewers and gather information about their titles, group they work in, and their previous experiences. Also ask your recruiter about the hiring manager’s interview style and what questions they have asked in the past.
  • Company:  Research the company with whom you have a scheduled job interview. Know the size of the organization, their main focus, their mission statement and look for any latest news and updates.
  • Your Resume: Know your resume and make sure you can speak of examples from your resume. Cross-reference the job description to your resume and make sure you have all the skills required, or at least, at a minimum, skills that are comparable.
  • Interview questions:  There are a lot of questions that can be found online; however, refrain from memorizing questions and answers as you will sound robotic during an interview. Instead, write down some of your own examples so they are top of mind.
  • Seek Advice: Ask your recruiter to identify potential flaws in the communication style, they will be honest with you and you will appreciate the honesty in the long run. For example, you may have a habit of saying too much so they will advise you to slow down and be clear and concise. Use the below STAR method when describing examples so you don’t lose the hiring manager with too many details about an IT project that they have little interest in.
  1. S = Situation   (Describe the situation: general/specific)
  2. T = Technique   (What approach did you use?)
  3. A = Action   (What action did you take?)
  4. R = Result   (What was the result of your action?)
  • Prepare Questions:  You always want to have a couple of questions for the end of the interview. If your questions have already been answered by the time it gets to that point, it’s okay to say so.
  • Plan what you are wearing: Lay out your attire the night before and make sure you have a nice crisp shirt/blouse to wear. Don’t dress casual too any interview.
  • Be positive: Last but very important, be positive and have fun. It’s better to speak about a glass half full than a glass half empty. Smile — it goes a long way.

Once a job interview has been completed, it’s also important to follow up with your recruiter. They will want to hear how your interview went and if you are interested in the role. It’s also important to let your recruiter know if you have other interviews or offers in progress so they can push the hiring manager for feedback.

Be Confident, Not Arrogant, in Your Next Interview

Be Confident, Not Arrogant, in Your Next InterviewLast summer, we shared stats from a survey of Eagle’s recruiters identifying “Arrogance” as one of the top traits that drive them nuts in an interview. Other surveys have also revealed that being conceited is a simple way to move onto a recruiter’s do-not-call list.

The challenge with advice like “Don’t be arrogant,” is that people rarely know they’re guilty of it. In fact, in many situations, a recruiter may be mistaking a candidate’s nervousness or confidence for egotism. How, then, can you ensure that in your next interview you appear confident and knowledgeable, but not so over-confident that you shed arrogance? Here are a few areas of focus:

It starts when you walk in the door.

Your body language and other small nuances can affect how clients and recruiters think of you from the moment you arrive. For example:

  • Arrive early — Failure to arrive on time can send the message that you think your time is more important than theirs.
  • Dress simply — Of course you need to look professional, but over-dressing can give the wrong impression.
  • Be aware of body language — Looking somebody in the eyes and smiling (not too much, that’s creepy) goes a long way compared to frowning and looking bored. Remember to pay attention to simple gestures. Pointing or crossing your arms can inadvertently give off a condescending vibe.
  • Remember names and past discussions — These small talking points show somebody that they’re more than a potential paycheck, but you value the relationship.

Have meaningful 2-way discussions

You and your skills are the topic of the interview, but, as you already know, this meeting isn’t all about you. Show the interviewer you’re not self-centred:

  • Let them speak — Interrupting an interviewer is insulting, shows little respect, and screams arrogance.
  • Ask questions — This demonstrates that you’re open to learning new things and that you’re not a “know-it-all.”
  • Keep it positive — There will be disagreements and clarifications, but disputing everything an interviewer has to say or getting offended too easily will take the interview in the wrong direction.
  • Avoid overly-technical jargon — Great recruiters understand your skills, but if they knew everything you know, they’d be taking your contracts. Speaking to them too technically can appear as belittling or as an attempt to prove their ignorance.

Sell all dimensions of your experience

You are the common denominator in all of your successes, but you weren’t the only factor. Recruiters and clients know that there’s more to your success than just you, and they want to make sure you know it too.

  • Give examples of collaboration and team work — Talk about the other people on the team and why they were important.
  • Give credit to others – It can come across as far-fetched if you were the “hero” on every
  • Admit error – It’s also unbelievable that you never made a mistake. Identifying them and explaining how you fixed them is a humbling trait.
  • Don’t be too humble — Sorry for the contradiction. If you’re too humble, an interviewer may read that as fake and forced, trying to hide your arrogance.

Perception is everything. Even the most humble people can appear to be arrogant with the wrong cues, often stemmed by nerves or trying too hard. To simplify this entire article follow this one piece of advice: Always be polite!

These tips can be used in all interviews, with clients and recruiters, as well as meetings with any team. Is there anything you would add? Are there any other clues that cause you to find somebody as arrogant? Please share them in the comments below!

34 Crucial Tips for Your Next Job Interview (Infographic)

Sure, every client and recruiter is different, and they’ll all have unique interviews, but there are some constants that you can expect in nearly all interviews. For those, we recommend this infographic from CollegeAtlas.org. It will help you prepare, understand the most common mistakes, and give you some helpful tips so you can rock your next one.

34 Crucial Tips for Your Next Job Interview

From Visually.

The Importance of Contract Duration on Your Resume

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

The Importance of Contract Duration on Your ResumeAs an independent contractor, there are things in your career that you can control and things you can’t. The duration of individual contracts on your resume is widely interpreted by recruiters and clients to be a bell weather of your proficiency as a consultant. While there is certainly no specific science behind it, it is one of the first things evaluated when your resume is being assessed. Most recruiters are trained to look for the shorter term contracts and to dig for information on why that particular contract was so short.

3 Months (or Less): What happened?

The perception of short contracts as red flags on a person’s resume can lead to distrust and misunderstanding and while you might not have been able to control the duration of the contract, you need to ensure you manage the perceptions attached.

Does that mean you don’t accept shorter term contracts, or leave them off your resume. The whole point behind using contractors is to perform a piece of work that requires either specialized skills or skills that the client might not currently have among their employees. And these needs are not always attached to multi-year programs. Throughout a career as an independent, it is normal to have a variety of contracts with different terms and outcomes. So here are some simple ways of handling questions and concerns connected with short term contracts.

  1. Don’t hide them: I’ve stated before that trying to hide things on your resume will only lead to bigger problems. I’ve met countless numbers of contractors who have tried to do just that. And ultimately, numbers don’t add up or they forget which version of resume to use and this leads to bigger questions and ends up eroding your credibility. Instead, be prepared to explain why the project was short and what was accomplished in that timeframe. I’ve also talked about managing your references and it never hurts to have a reference who will talk to your performance on a short project.
  2. If suitable, brag about it: Short contracts can be extremely challenging! Going in and grasping what needs to be done and then finishing by delivering a solution in just a few weeks or months is an accomplishment…and actually more closely reflective of the talents of a senior consultant.
  3. Does the recruiter understand your skillset: Some skillsets and roles for which you have developed a specialty are typically performed in shorter periods of time. Preparing a business case, assisting in the preparation of an RFP, performing an audit are all examples of work that doesn’t entail long term contracts. Make sure your recruiter “gets it” and really has a grasp of what it is you do.
  4. Finally, if it was bad, admit it…but in a positive way: People get fired, let go, laid off all the time. There is definitely an impression of contractors being “elite” but even elite professionals can run into projects that aren’t a fit. Talk about the challenges you faced on the project and what went wrong… and what went right! Feeling guilty about a contract that went wrong is normal but don’t forget to look at what you delivered. And evaluating a bad contract can have positive impacts. It may indicate to you what kind of roles or environments you are better suited for or areas where you could use improvement or further training.

Managing a career in independent contracting is full of challenges and how your resume appears to a recruiter or client is just one of them. Short term contracts are normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Just be prepared to discuss them with confidence and treat them as just one more skill in your professional portfolio. And remember, if you are not sure, seek the assistance of a professional recruiter. More often than not, they will be able to offer solid advice and talk you through the challenge.

What is a Top-of-Mind Candidate?

Recruiter remembering a top-of-mind contractorUnlike parents and teachers, recruiters have no problems admitting that they play favourites. All recruiters have “top-of-mind” candidates and when a role comes up for which that candidate qualifies, they’re the first person the recruiter calls. If you can get yourself into this sweet spot, searching for jobs becomes much easier; in fact, searching starts to become unnecessary because opportunities fall into your lap!

To help you better understand what’s inside a recruiter’s head when they’re picking favourites, we surveyed Eagle’s Team on the topic and put together a series of posts. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share the common traits of top-of-mind candidates, some steps you can take to improve their impression of you, as well as insight into some habits that will put you in their bad books.

You may be wondering “Why should I care about sucking up to recruiters? My skills are top-notch and I have plenty of experience.” That is true, and is absolutely the most important part of landing the right contract, but building a relationship has many advantages too. According to the survey we conducted, the majority of recruiters said they’re often able to skip the search and immediately call somebody for a role. In fact, 88% of them said this happens on more than half of their roles. That means that you can apply for as many roles as you’d like and have the best resume ever, but if you’re not top-of-mind, a recruiter will rarely bother to seek you out. Of course, these statistics exclude niche roles. If you possess hard-to-find skills and work in a specialized role, you already know that you’re in a different camp.

Working to earn the top spot on a recruiter’s go-to list isn’t easy given how many contractors they meet on a regular basis, and your first impression is critical.  Nine out of 10 recruiters said that the first phone call or meeting has an effect on your future relationship and whether or not you’ll move to preferred status.  The good news, though, is that there isn’t limited space on a recruiter’s favourites list. Two-thirds of Eagle’s recruiters said that more than half of the people they interview earn top-of-mind status.

So how exactly can you ace an interview with a recruiter to become a top-of-mind candidate? If you mess up the first time, can you redeem yourself? How can you maintain that preferred status? Stay posted to the Talent Development Centre over the next few weeks for answers to all of these questions and more!

How to Use the Job Description to Nail Your Next Interview

This article was posted October 18, 2015 on TheSavvyIntern by JobScan Blog

ow to Use the Job Description to Nail Your Next Job Interview The most underutilized tool in preparing for job interviews?

The job description.

As a job seeker, you rely heavily upon the job description in the early stages of the hunt—after all, it’s the only piece of information you have to help you land an interview. But, once many job seekers have landed the interview, the job description gets tossed aside.

Too bad, because job descriptions contain a secret wealth of knowledge that can aid you in preparing for an interview!

Instead of closing that browser tab, here’s how to use that job description to nail your next interview…

Talking Points

When preparing for an interview, most people will focus on what questions they think the employer is going to ask. While this is a valid approach, it can also be a complete guessing game. Instead of focusing on what the employer might ask, focus on creating answers you can use for any number of different questions based on the things included in the job description.

A good job description will lay out all the essential skills the employer is seeking. The employer wants to understand how you developed those skills and what you’ve accomplished using them.

Prepare for your interview by brainstorming a talking point for each technical or hard skill or listed in the job description. Focus on highlighting your accomplishments, milestones, and the goals you’ve achieved using that specific skill.

For instance: If they are seeking someone with “2+ years of experience leading a team,” make notes on the key successes that a team has accomplished under your direction in the last few years.

Create Your Soft Skill Stories

Also, take the time to identify quantifiable stories that will demonstrate you possess the characteristics and soft skills the employer is seeking.

Assessing soft skills in an interview is difficult because the employer usually spends less than an hour with you. While they’ll be able to get a snapshot of your general personality and interpersonal skills during the interview, you need to paint a complete picture of what you’re like in a professional setting day-in and day-out.

Create a list of stories from your previous jobs, school, and volunteer work that correspond to soft skills in the job description. If they want someone “highly communicative and client-centric” be armed with a story of a specific time you went above and beyond your normal job duties to satisfy a client or kept them abreast of developments in a highly important campaign you headed up.

If you’re prepared with talking points about both your hard and soft skills, including specific stories and examples to back up your claims, you don’t need to stress over what the questions will be—you’ve already got your answers!

Identify Weaknesses

Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t meet all of the criteria for a position. In a job description, the employer essentially lays out their “unicorn employee.” In reality, most candidates will have mastered some skills, but lack others.

In preparing for the interview, your weaknesses should become apparent. As you developed your talking points in step one, you probably struggled to come up with stories for some of the desired qualifications. Those are your weak spots, and you need to be prepared to talk about them.

To combat your weaknesses before the interview, be honest with yourself about your skill levels. If you exaggerate your skills during the interview, and can’t perform them upon landing the job, it will reflect poorly upon you—and could even get you fired.

Then, start learning as much as you can about the areas in which you are weakest. Even if you only spend a couple hours reading up on the subject, you will at least have enough knowledge of the topic to understand what the employer is seeking. Plus, there’s always the chance you know more about the subject than you realized!

Be armed with specific plans about how and where you can learn the skills where you are weak or lack experience. And, of course, share any related skills you already possess that will speed up the learning curve.

Create Your Own Set of Interview Questions

While a job description can give you a ton of useful information on how to prepare for your interview, it does not present a complete picture. Company websites and resources such as Glassdoor can be useful tools to gather further information, but interviews provide the best access to information—directly from the source.

After you’ve read the job description, you should have a broad sense of what the position entails, what the company values, and how you stack up. Ask yourself what the job description doesn’t tell you. Those are the questions you want to ask during the interview!

Consider the following:

  • What does the job description tell you about company culture?
  • Do you get a clear sense of what the company’s ideal candidate would look like?
  • Do you understand how this role fits into their team? Their organization? The company?

Use your answers to these questions to guide you; think about what missing information you want to gather during the interview. Remember: most interviewers expect you to have questions prepared, because it demonstrates that you’ve been researching the company and are serious about the job!

The other bonus to crafting questions based on the job description is that you can verify how accurately it portrays the job and the company. If the job description says the company values a good work/life balance, and that’s a big selling point for you, don’t be afraid to ask:

“The job description mentioned this company prioritizes work/life balance. Can you tell me about how the company helps actively promote the balance? How does it impact your work here?”

The job description is only a starting point, but it can help you assess what you don’t know, as well as what you do know about the job. It’s up to you to collect the rest.

When you land an interview, keep in mind that one of the hardest parts is already over. Your resume beat their applicant track system and now you have the opportunity to meet with someone face to face. The company has already shown an interest in you, so showing up to the interview prepared and relaxed will just affirm their decision to select you