Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: IT contractors

The Verbs Must Appear in an IT Contractor’s Resume

An IT contractor’s resume must be more than a document that tells a recruiter or future client where you worked and on what kind of projects. Those reading your resume want to know what you have accomplished in your career, what you did in order to succeed, and how you brought value to your clients… all of your actions.

To guarantee you include the most actions in your IT consulting resume, StandOut CV created this infographic of 10 essential verbs you should include in your resume. A good suggestion is to start nearly every bullet point describing your experience with one of these words. This ensures you’re always describing your actions. To make an even bigger difference in your resume, take some time to find powerful synonyms to the words so you don’t bore recruiters with what they may feel are cliché buzz words.

10 Essential CV Writing Verbs Infographic

Applying to Government IT Jobs: 8 Things to Expect Will be Different from the Private Sector

If your independent contracting career has predominately been serving clients in the private sector and you’re considering moving into government, then read this article carefully because what has worked for you in the past will not work well when searching for jobs in the public sector. Especially if you’re moving into a “government town” like Ottawa or Edmonton, it’s important to know what you should expect when trying to land a contract with a government client.

  1. Expect RFPs

Government procurement processes are in place to ensure fair and transparent purchasing decisions and that holds true when they’re hiring IT contractors. Before we even hear about the opportunity, you can be sure that the job has been reviewed by many departments and requirements have been edited so it all fits into one fair (sometimes confusing) Request for Proposal. The good news is that when you work with a staffing agency, they will comb through the document, filter out the legalese, and give you what you need to know to apply.

  1. Expect Black and White

Due to the nature of RFPs and the government’s obligation to remain fair and transparent, you need to be aware that every decision is black and white. There is no such thing as wiggle room when responding to government bids — 5 years of experience is not 4 years, 11 months… it’s at least 5 years.

  1. Expect Grids and Matrices

How do government evaluators ensure they’re seeing all responses consistently and evaluating fairly? With grids (sometime referred to as matrices) that can get to be long and complicated. These tables allow for a simple cross reference between the requirements and resume so it’s easy to check off who will move onto the next round and who will be dumped. Grids have both mandatory and point-rated requirements and a failure to clearly demonstrate that you meet their minimum threshold is automatic disqualification. If you’re not prepared to put some effort into a grid, then a recruiter is not likely to consider you for government jobs.

  1. Expect Longer Resumes

Everything you write in a grid to prove your experience must be substantiated in your resume. This means that you can throw the old “2 page resume” rule out the window. If it takes 50 pages to create a resume that clearly demonstrates all of your relevant experience, then so be it. Content is a must.

  1. Expect Strict Rates

Past experience isn’t the only strict, black and white requirement the government insists on. Before being invited to provide IT resources, all suppliers (staffing agencies, individuals, consulting companies) must first get onto a pre-approved vendor list. During that process, they often have to provide a maximum bill rate and charging anything higher is unacceptable. When a recruiter tells you that their hands are tied and they can’t go any higher with the rate, they’re probably not bluffing and are contractually obligated to remain at that number.

  1. Expect Hard Deadlines

You should be noticing a trend at this point that government RFPs for IT contractors are quite regimented and there is no deviating from what they want. Submission deadlines are no different. Nearly every RFP you come across will include an exact submission deadline (ex. 2:00pm on a specific day). Even being 1 minute late could result in disqualification, demonstrating how much more important it is to meet all deadlines provided to you when working on an application to a government IT contract.

  1. Expect Security Clearances

Primarily in Federal Government, if you want to work, you’re going to need security clearance at some level. It may be as simple as Reliability Status, which just requires a short background check, or as high as Top Secret Clearance, which will ask for your history over the past 10 years, plus information about your immediate family, to do a complete review involving both the RCMP and CSIS. Depending on the clearance level and your personal history, this can take anywhere from 2 weeks to more than 2 years!

  1. Expect Long Wait Times

“Hurry up and wait.” That’s how you may feel after you’ve worked overtime updating your resume, spent hours working with a recruiter to perfect a grid, and rushed through the security clearance application forms. Because after your agency finally submits the proposal, getting a response from the government can take months. While some departments will have results back in weeks, it’s not unusual for other departments to spend much more time evaluating. This is usually due to the many responses they receive as well as their commitment to a thorough and fair evaluation process to ensure tax payer money is being spent wisely.

Working in the public sector is definitely a different experience than private and the application process ensures job seekers are aware of that early-on. Still, IT contractors who live it every day will tell you that it remains a good industry with plenty of opportunity, you just have to know your way around.

If you’re considering moving into the government as a next step in your IT contracting profession, we recommend starting today. Get in touch with your preferred recruiter to begin security clearances and to learn about new opportunities. Remember, even if you apply to a job this month, it may be another six months before the work begins.

 

Workplace Health & Safety for Independent Contractors

You’re an IT professional working at a comfortable desk in a cozy office, what could possibly go wrong? Compared to working on a construction site, very little; however, health and safety hazards exist in offices and still require attention. From slips, trips and falls to mental health to ergonomics, there are health and safety considerations for all office professionals. Independent contractors need to understand their responsibilities and those of their client.

Who’s Responsible for an IT Contractor’s Health & Safety

To start, please note that this post is not intended to provide legal advice in any way. Our goal is to ensure you’re starting the right conversations and discussing any concerns with your lawyer.

According to OHS Canada, clients can’t necessarily “delegate safety”. At the highest level, all clients and companies always have a responsibility to provide basic human rights, including a workplace free of discrimination and harassment. However, specific health and safety responsibilities between clients and independent contractors can be a grey area and there are various legal cases demonstrating the complexities. Each province across Canada has its own variations of their health and safety laws, with all industries and situations having a number of differing variables.

To protect themselves and their employees, it is not uncommon for clients to include their health and safety regulations as part of their contract agreement with all independent contractors. Such documentation could include all of your responsibilities in protecting yourself and others while on the client site, as well as an outline any hazards of which you should be aware while working there. Clients may also conduct background checks before hiring, specifically to ensure that you will comply with all regulations and are not a risk to their business.

If something goes wrong and coverage is required, independent contractors should air on the side of caution and assume that they will require their own coverage. As an example, in Alberta, the Worker’s Compensation Board does not require clients to provide coverage to any incorporated contractor, regardless of whether you have an account with them or not. Just as important, if you hire an employee in your contracting business, you take on additional responsibility and are required to ensure coverage for them as well.

You already know that as an independent contractor you’re not entitled to the same rights as regular employees of a client. It’s important to note on the health and safety side of that, according to this article from WorkHoppers, this includes the right to file complaints for free to the Ministry of Labour. Instead, IT contractors may incur some legal costs involved in the same complaint process.

What Can IT Contractors Do to Ensure Health & Safety?

There are simple steps you can take to ensure a safe workplace, as well as reduce your risk as an independent contractor:

  • Ask questions before and after starting a contract about policies and procedures, ensuring you have a clear understanding of all hazards and expectations.
  • Make suggestions to your client if you notice the work environment could be better. Concerns may be directed to your supervisor, your client’s HR department, or to your recruiter who can further investigate.
  • Ensure you have your own coverage through your provincial workers’ compensation board. For example, WSIB in Ontario or WCB in Alberta.
  • Help maintain the health and safety of your client’s employees. You’re required to follow your client’s on-site regulations (and you should generally act like a decent human being), plus it’s good business practice and failure to do so could cost you future work.
  • Consult with a lawyer if you have any concerns.

Have you come across any health and safety issues or concerns in your IT contracting career? If so, we’d love to learn about them and how they turned out. Sharing your experiences will help other contractors understand and prepare for these dreadful situations.

Contractor Quick Poll: Who Does Your Accounting?

With all the benefits that come from being an independent contractor, a major downside for many is having to deal with accounting. There are probably some of you out there who enjoy that stuff (to each their own), but from our discussions with IT contractors, managing the books is one of the more dreaded tasks that come with owning your own business.

Although an annoying job to have to do, accounting is a must for anybody trying to avoid bankruptcy and keep the CRA out of their hair. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re curious to know how you make sure it gets done. Do you handle the majority of your accounting or do you outsource it to someone else?

Soft Skills Research That May Surprise You

The greatest IT professionals — both contractors and full-time employees — are extremely skilled in their technical areas. Where the average professional is lost and confused with technology beyond MS Office, IT workers have an uncanny ability to create complex programs, fix the most confusing bugs, and organize data to provide intelligence that a business owner never thought was possible. Having these skills are the pillars to landing a lucrative tech gig, but as we’ve discussed many times in the Talent Development Centre, improving your soft skills will make you competitive in your search for IT jobs.

There are an unlimited number of soft skills out there that you can improve and deciding where to put your focus can be a daunting task. A recent contractor quick poll found that IT professionals want their co-workers to have good communication skills, emotional intelligence and time management. We also shared an infographic last year that gave more specific insight into what soft skills are most important for a Project Manager. For what should be a simple topic, when we dig into soft skills, it can easily get complicated.

Earlier this year, business consulting company West Monroe Partners conducted a study to answer questions about a soft skills gap in IT and what soft skills companies look for in technology candidates. You can download the complete report here, but if you’d prefer a good summary, InformationWeek summarized the top 10 findings:

  1. 98% of HR recruiters look for soft skills when hiring tech workers
  2. 81% of organizations ask business leaders to evaluate IT job candidates’ soft skills
  3. Most business leaders say IT pros’ soft skills are equal to or better than those of other departments
  4. Half of organizations use personality tests to assess soft skills
  5. Recruiters say IT job candidates are good at verbal communication
  6. HR recruiters say leadership is the least important skill for IT pros
  7. Organizations in NYC want flexibility and conflict resolution skills
  8. Older people want teamwork and flexibility; younger people want leadership and conflict resolution skills
  9. Male and female hiring managers look for the same soft skills
  10. Different industries have different soft skills requirements

What can we take from all of this? The good news is that if you’re part of the majority, your soft skills are exactly where they need to be! If you want to focus on something, flexibility and conflict resolution look to be the top priorities in IT hiring managers, where leadership is the least. It’s also worth keeping in mind that these priorities vary by industry.

Steps to the Best Code Review and Giving the Imminent Feedback

Giving feedback is a regular task for all IT contractors, regardless of your core area of expertise. Whether its to a colleague, a client or a direct report, feedback comes in a variety of forms and usually starts with an evaluation. For example, you may give a colleague feedback on their presentation after seeing it, give a fellow contractor feedback on their resume after reading it, and or give a developer feedback on their code after a careful review.

Unlike sitting through a presentation or glancing over a resume, reviewing code and giving feedback requires extensive focus, knowledge and attention to detail. That’s why the best code reviewers are able to land jobs working on the most exciting projects.

In a recent article published by The Muse, Full Stack Engineer Neely Kartha comments on some of her struggles when she first began reviewing code, specifically the stress that can come from the expectations. Obviously a great problem-solver with initiative, Kartha explains how she interviewed other professionals to collect tips on how to best review code. Here are the 5 most important ones she discovered:

  1. Think about the overall impact
  2. Consider security
  3. Focus on bugs
  4. Be a team player
  5. Use the process for learning and knowledge sharing

While the first three points require strong technical skills and experience to truly excel, the final two — being a team player and embracing the opportunity to grow — are soft skills that can often be more challenging. Kartha points out at the end of her article that the steps in providing feedback are a great opportunity to exercise your people skills. She suggests giving people the benefit of the doubt while trying to dispel defensiveness. Obviously this is no easy task, but surely something that top code reviewers have mastered.

Do you review code? If so, do you have any additional tips for a successful review that ensures a quality product and maintains good relationships with the author? We’d love your tips, please share them in the comments below.