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Tag Archives: interview tips

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

Here’s What Recruiters Do and Do Not Want to Hear from You

Here's What Recruiters Do and Do Not Want to Hear from YouThe key to selling anything, including yourself, is having a clear understanding of the client. In the case of an IT contractor’s job search, that means knowing your recruiters. Hiring professionals spend every day of their careers evaluating candidates — great ones, mediocre ones and terrible ones. Naturally, it does not take them long to know what they do and do not like.

For example, this article from Inc. reveals buzzwords often found on LinkedIn that recruiters despise reading. It states that you should avoid words that are vague, boastful, or too quirky because they detract from your actual accomplishments. The article also notes that these terms should not appear in a resume or pop-up in job interviews:

  • Growth Hacker and other cute or too creative job titles. State your job title as it is — Developer, Project Manager, etc. Other examples of annoying job titles include futurist, thought leader, champion and influencer.
  • Words you wouldn’t use in a job interview or face to face. For example, nobody would call themselves authentic or a visionary while in-person and expect to maintain credibility.
  • Strategic and innovative. The author’s opinion is that these are over-used words used by lazy people. Elaborate if you’re going to include them.
  • Any word you don’t own. These are classic buzzwords we love to use but don’t know what they mean. For example: synergize/synergy, tribe, game changer, silo, snapshot, bandwidth, traction, cutting edge, granular, omnichannel, paradigm shift, ideation, deliverable, digital transformation and touch base.

So how do you attract recruiters? This article from U.S. News has four helpful ideas and techniques you can use when setting up your job search that will make recruiters a little more eager to give you a call:

  • Play passive. The article suggests keeping your resume off of every job board and not applying to every This way, recruiters don’t perceive that you’re interviewing at 100 other places.
  • Convey your pain. “Pain” may not be the right word, especially for an IT contractor, but instead “interest” or “motivation”. Ensure to the recruiter that you are invested in the opportunity and will not jump ship.
  • Be flexible. The article states that respecting the recruiter’s process and timelines shows goodwill and a desire to work with them, but we will add to that. When working with many clients in the IT contract world, deadlines are real and failure to comply means you cannot be submitted. Flexibility is not about pleasing the recruiter, but complying with the job requirements.
  • Recommend good candidates. If for any reason you are not up for being submitted to the job, help a recruiter by recommending somebody who is interested. When successful, you’ll be helping the recruiter and your friend. Good karma is sure to come your way!

Recruiters evaluate thousands of candidates and, unfortunately, it is not possible to do in-depth research on every applicant they receive. Instead, they rely on their instincts and experience based on what they see in the first few seconds. Being armed with the right knowledge will help you pass that 5-second test so you can completely sell your skills when they dive into your resume.

5 Ways You’re Screwing Up Your Job Search

5 Ways You're Screwing Up Your Job SearchThere are many reasons a job search may not be going your way, and you can blame different people, circumstances and even the universe for it. However, if you’re a talented technology professional with a solid track record and you’re still having extended difficulties landing your next IT contract, it’s time to reflect on yourself. Here are 5 possible ways you’re screwing up your job search, courtesy of a few of the world’s most popular blogs and publications:

Your resume is out-of-touch

Back in January, Glassdoor published an article to “age-proof” your resume, noting that competing for work against the younger generation is a regular challenge for older workers. Some of the points suggest limiting the length of your resume or only focusing on recent experience. As we’ve discussed before, though, IT contractors can benefit by showcasing their lengthy experience and older skills, plus longer resumes are less of an issue when computers do the screening.

The rest of the points in the article are relevant to professionals in any age category. That’s because they focus on updating your resume so it meets the latest trends and fits into how a recruiter wants to see your work experience. For example:

  • Optimize your resume with keywords (make it easy for computers to identify that you’re a fit)
  • Upgrade your email address (thejohnsons@randomISP.net doesn’t cut it anymore)
  • Join the LinkedIn bandwagon (include the link to your profile in your resume)
  • Focus on achievements, not tasks (show how you bring value to clients)
  • Ditch the objective statement (replace it with a value statement or profile summary)

You’re not prepared for new interview trends

Hiring managers regularly experiment with new ways to screen candidates and ensure they’re talking to the best people. For example, this Glassdoor article discusses job simulation, the types of exercises used in interviews, and how you can succeed at them. In the IT space, simulations typically come as whiteboards and coding problems, and the article goes more in-depth to discuss types of assignments, online exams, role playing and virtual simulations.

Before going into an interview, discuss with your recruiter and research the client to find out if their interviews tend to use these techniques. It’s also wise to look into common forms of simulations for your specific role and the client’s industry. Finally, a Google search can help you find some practice assessments and prepare.

Your interview responses are too cliché

Fast Company is another source that provides great job interview advice, including this piece with 6 phrases that make hiring managers roll their eyes. When you look carefully, you’ll notice they’re all clichés and do not differentiate you from other candidates. If you can’t back-up these statements with specific examples, make commitments to your performance and explain how it will bring value to your client, don’t bother blurting these out:

  1. I’m an overachiever
  2. I give 150%
  3. I really love this company
  4. I’m hardworking/a team player/committed
  5. I’m extremely detail oriented
  6. I feel like this is a place where I can learn and grow
  7. I really love this company

You’re coming off as a narcissist

That’s a Inc‘s polite way of saying “the hiring manager or recruiter thinks you’re an arrogant jerk” and many job seekers do this accidentally. As the article says, nerves are a common cause of over-selling yourself in a way that makes you unattractive to the interviewer, but being aware of the risk is the first steps to avoiding it. Three examples they provide are:

  • Acting like a pushy sales person (instead listen to what the hiring manager has to say);
  • Claiming you don’t care if you didn’t get the job (instead follow-up and ask the recruiter for feedback); and
  • The interviewer thought you were over-qualified (that may be a sign you spoke too much or provided too much detail – try coming across as humble and emphasizing how much you still have to learn).

You’re not respecting yourself

The final job search mistake we recently came across has nothing to do with how you search for the job, but whether or not you choose to accept a position that does not deserve you.

A viral story swept the world early this year when a job seeker in England shared a brutal job interview experience. Olivia Bland was called back for a second interview where the company’s CEO spent the entire time talking at her and telling her how terrible she was at everything. Shortly after the interview, the company offered her the job.

Blant ended up declining the offer and shared her response to the company in a Tweet. Her courage is a crucial lesson to all job seekers to recognize red flags in an interview and don’t accept a position where you know the environment will be toxic for your mental health.

You are destined to mess up a job search at least once or twice throughout your career, but hopefully these tips will help you avoid one of these slip-ups. Can you help our readers avoid mistakes by sharing your experiences? Please share your stories in the comments below.

What To Do with Your Hands During a Job Interview

As Kelly Benson pointed out back in July, when you’re job hunting, the devil is in the details. Every little step counts, from the spelling in your resume to how you format your resume to how you submit an application. And if you’re fortunate enough to receive one, that attention to detail needs to carry-on to your interview. When you arrive, how you dress, and what kind of handshake you give will all affect the client’s perception of you.

If we’re going to talk about small details, let’s take a look at a really small one we rarely think about — what you do with your hands during the job interview. Business Insider thinks of everything to help you succeed in your job search, and this video is no different. Take a look so you’re more cognizant next time you’re sitting across the table from someone. It’s amazing what kind of effect simple hand gestures can have on whether ornot you win an IT contract.

Never Say These 7 Sentences in a Job Interview

You know those clichés and buzz words that recruiters hate seeing in resumes? They’re not doing you any justice when you bring them up in a job interview either. That’s according to this video published by Business Insider a few years ago. Sure, it may be dated, but we can speak from experience, these clichés have not gone away.

According to the video, there are 7 sayings that need to end:

  1. I’m a team player
  2. I’m the perfect fit for this job
  3. I’m open to anything
  4. I’m a perfectionist
  5. I’m a workaholic
  6. I have good leadership skills
  7. I wasn’t appreciated at my last job

The video dives into specifics as to why each saying’s bad and how it’s hurting you when you say it to a recruiter or client. If any of these seven lines have slipped out of your mouth recently, watch the video for more details and some suggested alternatives.

Adjust Your Communication Style for a Successful Interview

Adjust Your Communication Style for a Successful InterviewRecruiters will be the first to tell you that everybody is different. They meet thousands of people throughout their careers, all with diverse personalities and backgrounds. As such, the best recruiters excel at understanding you and how to work with you in order bring you the right projects. Topping the list of a person’s unique qualities is your communication style.

By knowing an individual’s preferred communication methodology, recruiters convey the right information and minimize misunderstandings. A skill this valuable shouldn’t be limited to recruiters. Because you’re bound to come across recruiters, clients and team members who are brutal at communicating, you too should perfect the art of adjusting to others’ communication styles.

A common time when communication fails is during an interview, either with a recruiter or client. It’s often a first meeting and, as such, there is no past experience for the parties to fall back on. If an explanation comes across poorly, that first impression has a more severe impact on their decision to hire you. Let’s examine four common styles of communication. By understanding them, you can identify which your interviewer prefers and adjust what you say to match their style.

Director

A Director likes to have control and wants to get things done as quickly as possible. They’re fast-paced and goal-oriented and have no time for small talk. While they may come across as impatient and insensitive, they’re just focused on achieving that end-result. If you find yourself interviewing with a Director, refrain from long, wordy explanations, and answer their questions directly. Provide straight-answers and back-up your experience with quantitative facts.

Socializer

The Socializer is the extreme opposite of the Director. Usually an extrovert, this person is all about relationships. They’re also more likely to make decisions based on their gut feelings. If your recruiter or client is a Socializer, then don’t brush them off when they ask about your weekend, and take the time to hear their stories (even if you think they’re boring and irrelevant to your work). You want them to leave the interview with a good feeling about you. Finally, because this group tends to have a short attention span, you will also need to ensure all of your strengths are clearly and simply articulated.

Thinker

The Thinker is a very analytical problem solver. It will take them longer to make decisions and they will want to make sure they have all of the facts about you. For this reason, you can expect a Thinker to ask more questions and dig deeper.  This is also the person who is most likely to catch you lying, so while we never recommend it, definitely don’t try it with a Thinker. For a successful interview with a Thinker, answer questions to the point, similar to a Director, but feel free to go into more detail, with more examples to back-up your experience.

Relater

A Relater is all about the warm, fuzzy feeling. They are very people-oriented and nurturing individuals who value relationships. Because of this, brushing off conversation, showing a colder side of your personality, or trying to play hardball in negotiations is going to leave a bad taste in their mouth. Instead, work at building a relationship with your recruiter or client and provide examples of your team work, showing your willingness to work and get along with anyone.

This high-level overview of communication styles is just the tip of the iceberg. Regardless of if you buy into the traits above, you at least need to understand that everybody is different, and the more you can adjust to their styles, the more successful you will be — in interviews, at work, or your personal relationships. If you disagree with our communication styles, we encourage you to take some time to learn more on the topic to find a model that works for you.

Things Recruiters Love to Ask and Hate to Hear

The best place to seek interview advice is directly from those who conduct them each day. As such, in order to bring you the some fresh information and an interesting perspective, we asked our recruiters a few questions about interviews. Rather than looking for the standard advice, we dug a bit deeper to help independent contractors understand recruiters’ unique methods and experiences that form the interview.

Things Recruiters Ask…

Things Recruiters Love to Ask and Hate to HearFirst, we asked recruiters for some of their favourite questions to get a candidate to think outside-the-box. Here are some of the top interview questions for IT contractors:

  • How did you save money, make money, or change a business process that did both in your past job?
  • What is your Achilles heel?
  • What have you brought to the “Project Management” field from your Bachelor Degree in Arts History, Education?
  • What is the one thing that people misunderstand about you?
  • What sets you apart from your peers?
  • Tell me about your biggest failure and how it made you successful in your career?

Things Recruiters Hear — the Little White Lies…

Next, we set out to learn about some of the fibs they hear most often, and where they tend to be most skeptical about candidates. They pointed out that junior candidates tend to be the bigger culprits, and that is occurs less in the IT industry than others. Regardless, these are the most common little white lies that recruiters hear (though some they didn’t learn were lies until it was too late):

  • “I left on good terms.” “We had a parting of ways.” — This can be seen as code for “something was brewing, and I was fired/I quit”
  • When asked about weaknesses, most candidates give a canned (bogus!) answer.
  • “All my projects are on-time, on-budget and to scope.”
  • Over-exaggerating responsibilities
  • Experience with a specific technology
  • Yes, i am very interested in this role
  • Current salary
  • Why they are looking

…And the Other Stories

Finally, if you want to understand why some recruiters question you or seem like they have little trust, remember that they have seen and heard a lot. Here’s what recruiters say are the more extreme lies they’ve been told:

  • “The candidate said they worked at a company where they have never worked.” (These things are easy to verify and destroy your reputation.)
  • “A candidate with a fake resume – entirely fake – showed up for a face-to-face interview with me hoping I’d pass him along to a client.”
  • “That the candidate had relocated for a role, when in fact they were commuting 3 hours EACH WAY every single day for a contract…. you can’t hide that kind of exhaustion from a client.”
  • “A candidate said they couldn’t make the interview because someone stole their car (…it was a lie)”
  • “They couldn’t make the interview as they were “sick” but I later found out they were in another province and didn’t want to tell me.”

Understanding a person, their background, and what influences who they are is a tactic sales people often use to persuade a client into buying their product. The same is true for IT contractors looking to sell their skills to a recruiter. Hopefully this brief insight into a recruiter’s mind gives you one more tactic during your next interview.

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.