Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: job searching

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

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:

Start Your Job Search with the Right Recruiter

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

How to Choose the Right Professional Recruitment Agency to Work With

How to Choose the Right Professional Recruitment Agency to Work WithChoosing a professional staffing firm to work with can sometimes be a daunting process.  There are many recruitment agencies out there, and choosing who will be representing you to the marketplace can be (and should be) an important consideration.  At first blush, most employment agencies appear the same – they focus on placing candidates – but as a consultant or job seeker, you should spend as much time vetting your staffing agency as they are vetting you.

Here are 10 questions to help you determine if you are working with the right recruitment agency to help you land your next role:

#1 – How long has the firm existed?  In the placement industry, there are very few barriers to entry and starting one’s own recruitment firm can be fairly easy. When choosing a firm, it is important to go with one that is established and has a solid foot print in the marketplace you are working in.

#2 – What do they specialize in?  Is it in line with what you are looking for?  There are specialist firms, such as IT recruiting, and there are generalist firms.  It is important for candidates to understand what the agency specializes in and what their client reach is in a particular area or industry.  The staffing agency’s website and job postings will be a great indicator of the types of resources that get placed by their firm.

#3 – Do they interview their candidates?  Did they take the time to understand what you are looking for?  A good recruitment agency will take the time to speak with candidates they are actively working with.  An agency should either do a phone interview or an in-person interview.  If neither has been done, and the recruiter is asking the right to represent you, think again.

#4 – Will they ask for the right to present you to a client, each and every time? Every time an employment agency speaks to you about a client job opportunity, contract or permanent, they must ask for explicit permission to be your representative.  If this is not a policy of the agency that you are working with, chances are they are sending your credentials out to the marketplace without your knowledge.  It can be very detrimental to your reputation when you give one recruiter permission to submit your resume, and another agency also submits you to the same role.  Avoid ‘blanket representation agreements’ as clients who receive your resume from two different sources may fault you for the discrepancy.

#5 – What specifics are outlined in their contract?  Payment terms?  Non-competes? A reputable staffing agency should be open to you reviewing their contract proactively. There is nothing worse than landing a dream technology contract role, and then finding out that your agency’s policy is not to pay their contractors until they are paid by their client (which is surprisingly common with smaller or start-up firms).  You should also ask your recruiter to outline their candidate care program – what kind of treatment can you expect once they place you?

#6 – What is their reputation in the staffing industry?  If a recruitment agency is large enough or specialized in your area of skills, you should be able to check out their reputation from colleagues and on social media.

#7 – How professional is their website?  What is their digital footprint? One can often tell a lot from a staffing agency’s digital footprint, including how professional their website looks and feels.  A professional agency should be able to demonstrate, at a minimum, their corporate history, candidate screening and hiring processes overview, and have a career page listed with postings. A code of conduct and ethics page is also a great piece to look out for.

#8 – Who are their clients?  Will the placement agency provide you with the best opportunity to land your next role?  When speaking with a recruiter, don’t be afraid to ask them how large their presence is in the marketplace and who their clients are.  Do they specialize in an industry vertical (ex. Technology, Financial Services, Healthcare, Oil and Gas) or corporation size (Fortune 500 or Small/Medium businesses)?

#9 – How professional are their recruiters?  Once you do get a chance to speak with a recruiter, were they easy to work with?  Did they understand what you are looking for and the parameters around your job/contract search?  Did they go over your recent experience with you and find out what your core skills are?

#10 – What is their candidate turnover rate with a client and how often do they re-work with the same candidates (candidates re-use)? Don’t be afraid to ask the agency this question as this speaks volumes on how well they understand their clients’ needs in terms of candidate fit.  If the turnover ratio is high (more than 2%), then treat this as a red flag! The agency has not taken the time to understand the fit between both parties.  Another great indicator of how well an agency does with its candidates is how often they re-work with candidates (in particular contractors).  Most good staffing agencies will want to work with resources they have placed in the past and these long standing agency/candidate relationships exemplify satisfaction from both parties.

These questions are just the starting point to working with an agency.  In the end, it comes down to your comfort level when dealing with the staffing agency’s recruiters and how they treat you.

9 Ways to Prepare for Freelancing in 2016

This article by Kate Rodriguez was originally posted on Social-Hire.com January 1, 2016

9 Ways to Prepare for Freelancing in 2016You’ve seen it, right? The impressive prediction that by 2020, over 40 percent of American workers will be freelancers (AKA “contingent workers”)? That figure hovered at just 10 percent in 2014. The fast-growing trend of self-employment has two sides and two sources. On the one side, professionals — particularly millennials and Gen Y’ers — want more control over their work lives, including the ability to set their own schedules, income potential and tasks. On the other side, employers want the flexibility to adjust their workforce levels according to need, and they want to employ the most talented people for less money. When experienced professionals freelance, it’s a win for both parties.

If you have been thinking about becoming a free agent, either as a full-time endeavor or a part-time side gig, you’ll find success faster if you know what to expect. In addition to making the obvious decision about what services you’re going to offer as a freelancer, you’ll want to prepare in these nine important areas:

  1. Be Ready to Market Yourself

Unless you can line up and keep a steady flow of clients via your connections alone, you’ll need to spend a considerable amount of time marketing your freelance services. Many self-employed persons spend up to a third of their work time on marketing, and not just at the beginning. It’s a necessary part of running a business, even if that business is just you. You must learn to like promoting yourself!

As a starting point, set up a website showcasing your expertise, what you offer and to whom, client references and, depending on your field, a portfolio. Create business cards and company brochures, as appropriate, for your line of work and target client audience. And don’t forget the awesome power of networking as a marketing tool. Whether it’s formal networking (e.g, in a professional association or a LinkedIn group) or the informal variety (e.g. sharing updates of your freelance activities with family, friends and neighbors), you should build in time for this important strategy.

  1. Update Your Cover Letter and Resume

Even if you intend to leave the 9-to-5, fixed employment world altogether, you’ll likely still need to go through the traditional process to apply for freelance gigs. Most companies will request a cover letter and resume, and will want to do an interview or two. Remember that in many cases, organizations are looking for a contingent employee with whom they can establish a long-term relationship. They’ll want to make sure you are the right fit, both in terms of your skills and your reliability. Prepare to follow the usual rules of professionalism when applying and interviewing with potential customers.

  1. Get Up To Speed on Taxes and Legal Matters

Know what a Form 1099-Misc is? You’ll need to if you want to be a freelancer.  Though it’s not terribly complicated, you’ll have to learn the ins-and-outs of paying taxes as a self-employed business owner. You must also understand the legal requirements of setting up a business, including licensing. Lastly, you should fully understand contract documents, like non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and client contracts, which protect you and the customer from misunderstandings and legal woes.

  1. Be Creative about Finding Your First Client

Many freelancers need to secure their first client to prove to themselves – and future clients — that they’re capable of succeeding in this new career. Yet the first client is often the hardest one to score. Be prepared to work at this, but also be creative. Maybe the company you currently work for could be your first client, if you make them an attractive offer, i.e., your expertise working on a specific project at an overall lower cost to them. Offer to give a speech or write an article that demonstrates your expertise – and don’t forget to mention you’re for hire. Approach some prospective clients and offer a free evaluation, or mail postcards to them containing your sales pitch. Your first customer does not have to be a dream client that offers the most interesting work at top rates. The goal is to get started with one project. You’ll learn from it and, ideally, obtain a reference, which will help you secure the next client and beyond. With time and experience, you can trade up to bigger clients and better pay.

  1. Look Locally, But Don’t Forget You Are Available Everywhere

It will probably be easier to find clients locally for your freelance work since you’ll be relying on your network of personal and professional contacts. Contingent on what type of services you offer, however, you could potentially find clients anywhere. A marketing consultant or a web designer, for instance, could just as easily be working for a business in Australia as for one in their hometown. As the global freelancing talent pool grows and becomes more attractive to businesses of all shapes and sizes, these same companies are becoming more comfortable hiring remote workers and communicating with them virtually. So, focus your marketing efforts broadly – you never know where the next client might be sitting.

  1. Get Familiar with Freelancer Platforms in Your Niche

Once you determine the services you’d offer as a freelancer, you should familiarize yourself with any online platforms that bring together free agents and clients in your industry area. Toptal, for example, focuses on software developers, StudioD on content writers, and Guru on all manner of consultants. A note of caution: some platforms (especially those with bidding models) effectively enable a race to the bottom, where clients try to bid out work for below-decent rates. Nevertheless, platforms can be a good way to land your startup clients and to provide you with a look at what type of projects are out there as well as client expectations.

  1. Understand Pricing and Your Worth

Setting rates as a freelancer can be tricky. When you’re new at the game and don’t yet have much to show, you’ll want to avoid setting your rates too high. At the same time, you don’t want to fall into the trap of offering lower-than-average rates to capture clients. The simplest way to set your rates is to base them on the average hourly pay you receive now in your job as a fixed employee, assuming you are planning to freelance in the same field. Another, albeit rough, method to do this is by dividing your desired weekly freelance income by the number of hours you plan to work each week. For realistic ideas of what others charge clients as startup freelancers, find a discussion thread – or start one yourself – on Reddit, Quora, or an industry-specific LinkedIn group.

  1. Connect with Other Freelancers in Your Niche

Along with discovering what other freelancers in your industry are charging their customers, you’ll speed up your learning curve significantly if you connect with self-employed people doing what you plan to do. Spend some time identifying online communities or offline groups where freelancers gather to share leads, productivity tips, articles, and “how I got started” stories, and be prepared to contribute regularly. Use Meetup.com, for instance, to discover groups of like-minded freelancers in your area. You can even start your own Meetup group if you don’t find one that fits.

  1. Focus on Client Relationships, Not Just on Projects

To avoid the “feast or famine” problem of freelancing, you’ll want to accumulate a handful of clients for whom you do regular work. This ensures a reliable monthly income and allows you, over time, to specialize deeply in an industry or functional area. The more of a niche expert you become, the more valuable and sought-after your services will be. Prepare to approach each project with the goal of building a relationship with the client that extends beyond the work at hand. Take the time up front to understand the client’s needs fully and deliver the best product you can. Follow up to make sure the deliverables have met their expectations, and thank them for working with you. Once you’ve established a rapport in this way, you can make suggestions for future projects that could enhance the client’s business. This is not just about your earning more money. It’s about becoming a business’s trusted advisor to your mutual benefit.

Although there’s plenty of buzz about the benefits of freelancing, it will not work for everyone at every stage in their personal and professional life. Look carefully at the costs and benefits of going solo before you leap. As a freelancer, you’re becoming a branded business and should treat it as such: plan carefully, consider every risk factor, prepare for ups and downs — and more likely than not, you’ll end up a winner.

4 Job Search Tips for Busy Candidates

Independent contractors are busy people.  You’re often juggling multiple projects, managing your business, balancing the rest of your life, and, of course, working to ensure you always have more work when the current contract is complete.  The last task can be especially challenging, given how much of your time those first three tend to use.

This video from Recruiter.com goes through 4 great tips for any candidate to search for jobs when they’re already busy.  Point number three discusses job alerts – did you know you can sign up for notifications through Eagle’s job board?

Life After Company XYZ

Jeremy Mason By Jeremy Mason,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

The IT Market changes dramatically each and every year, whether it is due to technological advancements, consumer demand, demographics, the economy, or any other reason.  While often positive, these changes can also have negative effects, causing companies to have to look at downsizing or restructuring.  In these cases, senior employees may be laid off, given an early retirement offer or even choose to take their natural retirement if the time lines up.  Regardless of how it plays out, it often comes as quite a shock to these individuals who have been with a given Company for very long time and suddenly find themselves having to think about their next move for the first time in over a decade.

Senior IT Professional Looking to Become an Independent ContractorIt’s completely natural for an individual in this position to wonder about “what they still have to offer.” The good news is there IS life after Company XYZ!!! Retirement or a new full-time job is not always feasible so instead, the next logical step could be independent contracting.  Not only is this group in a unique position to offer a tremendous amount of value to potential clients, but contracting can be very rewarding.

Here are just a few reasons why independent contracting may be the perfect solution for you if you’re a senior IT professional who is suddenly out of the workforce:

  • As already noted, the IT industry is changing, and as a result, companies are losing a tremendous amount of ‘Intellectual Capital’. You can take advantage of your skill set and offer your expertise on a contract basis.
  • After being with a given company for more than 10 years (which is rare in today’s Market), you can now have more freedom and choose what opportunity looks right for you.
  • It’s a great opportunity to start easing your way into retirement, working a little less and enjoying life a little more.
  • You’ll get to reap the financial rewards that come with it.

Eagle’s Executive and Management Consulting division works specifically with senior IT experts and has a network of clients who are looking for your knowledge. There is a definite demand for this market and, as more senior professionals start to retire, this demand is only going to grow.  If you find yourself in the position I described above, contact us today to discuss your options — you may be surprised at what you can do!

Develop This One Skill that Appears in 9 out of 10 Postings for the Most In-Demand Jobs

By Elizabeth Bromstein at Workopolis
This article originally appeared in the Workopolis Career Resources Blog

How many conversations have you had today? How many TV shows have you watched or podcasts have you heard? Now, how much of what you heard do you remember? How much did you actually listen?

Man and woman having a conversationI know I have a problem listening a lot of the time. I “listen” to podcasts on my way to and from work but can’t even remember what they were about the following day. I forget to listen to my husband when he speaks. I lose track of what people are saying when I interview them. We all do these things, though some of us are worse than others. I don’t think I’m actually that bad, but I’m not the best. I could be better. We all could.

Here’s the thing about listening: it is crucial to your career success. We know that “people skills” are for employers by far the most desired attributes in potential hires, and that listening is one of the most important people skills. We also know that “active listening” was listed as a critical skill for 9 out of 10 of the most in-demand jobs in a recent report. You must have listening skills.

If I were talking, you’d have tuned out already wouldn’t you?

We are losing our ability to listen, according to sound consultant Julian Treasure, who says we spend roughly 60% of our communication time listening but that we retain just 25% of what we hear. He says in a Ted talk that this is happening for several reasons, among them the noise levels to which we’re constantly subjected, the way information is expected to be presented in sound-bytes, and the rise of recording technology (I, for example, often find myself multi-tasking while interviewing people, and forgetting to pay attention to what they’re saying because I can just listen to the recording later).

“The premium on accurate and careful listening has simply disappeared,” he says.

In that talk Treasure also shares 5 exercises and tools you can use to improve your own conscious listening. These are:

  1. Silence
    “Just three minutes a day of silence is a wonderful exercise to reset your ears and to recalibrate so that you can hear the quiet again. If you can’t get silence go for quiet. That’s absolutely fine.”
  2. Something Treasure calls “The mixer”
    If you are in a noisy environment where sound is coming from all directions, listen for how many distinct channels of sounds you can hear. I do this for fun by listening for specific instruments in musical recordings. Symphonies are good.
  3. Something Treasure calls “savouring”
    This means “enjoying mundane sounds.” For an example, he shows how he turns the sound of his clothes dryer into a waltz.
  4. Listening positions
    This is “the idea that you can move your listening position to what’s appropriate to what you’re listening to.” I had some trouble grasping this one but he means that there are many different “positions” from which we listen: active, passive, expansive, reductive, judgmental. Treasure suggests playing with these “positions.” More on that here and in the Ted talk posted below.
  5. RASA
    It’s apparently the Sanskrit word for “juice” or “essence,” and an acronym for Receive (take in what you’re hearing),Appreciate (make listening noises like mmm hmmm), Summarize (recap with “so…”), Ask (ask questions).

Treasure says he believes that “every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully.” That’s a beautiful thought. And it will help you get a job, which is also nice.

Contracting in Good Times and Not-So-Good Times

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Ahhhh… contracting!  What could be better? Set your own rates, set your own hours, be your own boss…  right?  Just like running any business, there will be good times but there will also be times that are — let’s say — more challenging.  Typically as a contractor you are offered more flexibility regarding hours.  And, typically, clients will pay a premium for your services.  Unfortunately, as many in Alberta are currently experiencing, “typically” does not equate to “always”.

There are a number of reasons why companies use contractors as part of their staffing strategy: accessing difficult-to-find skill sets, providing the ability to scale up quickly to support their growth, and bringing in people with key/unique experience are all fine examples.  However, a much overlooked reason includes the ability to reduce costs quickly when the business requires it.  Maintaining a portion of a company’s staff as contractors means that companies are able to release headcount and associated costs without incurring severance costs and broader market ill-will.

We’ve seen this many times in Calgary in the past weeks, where the news mentions that XYZ Co is releasing 500 people “but they are primarily contractors”, almost implying that these “contractors” are somehow less integral to a company’s business success.  Anyone in the industry, including clients, knows that contractors hold key positions and have knowledge capital vital to a company, they contribute to the economy by paying taxes, and they have mortgages to pay and families to feed, just as “employees” do.

As much as no client wants to leave a contractor without work, the reality is, their ability to easily cut costs is one of the fundamental reasons that contracting opportunities exist.  It is why companies will justify paying a premium to contractors.  The premium is there to offset risk because it can end very quickly — as quickly as oil prices can fall by 50%.  This is the “risk of loss” that the CRA uses as one of its tests to validate a business-to-business relationship.  It’s an unfortunate down-side to contracting.

Professionals networkingWhen one finds themselves on the wrong side of a market down turn, there can be many challenges in store that make it difficult to find a soft landing.  In addition to keeping in contact with your agency partners, I recommend networking every chance you get, upgrading education and/or certifications and taking some time to re-visit your business plans/strategy to see what adjustments might need to be made.  These ideas, and many others, have been shared in blog posts written here, in Eagle’s Talent Development Centre.  There is a lot of great advice to job seekers and to contractors who are about to enter the interview process and may be a bit rusty. The following are some links to past postings that may be of particular interest:

…and there are many, many other posts/articles that you can explore.

Have you had an experience (positive/negative) in the industry lately that you are willing to share?  Do you have any advice for other job hunters?  I encourage you to leave your comment(s) below.

In the words of the immortal Red Green, “We’re all in this together!”

Economic Downturn — Now What?

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

The complexities of today’s economy are exceedingly difficult to understand.  The interdependence of our global market means that what happens in one part of the world can ripple across vast oceans and impact your life with little or no warning.  Wars, natural disasters, and recessions make news headlines daily, and the economic impact can quickly become a wave that engulfs your quiet world and turns things upside down.  Here in Alberta, we’re witnessing one of those events, as the price of oil continues its downward trend the effects are being felt here and across Canada.   Projects are being shelved, contractors have been let go and the news doesn’t promise to get better anytime soon.  As an independent contractor, this can be a time of stress and uncertainty.  How should you respond?

  1. Stay Professional:  If your contract is terminated early, understand that this is a market condition that you have very little control over.  Do whatever it takes to leave the project in as good as shape as is possible.  If you can, ensure any items that need to be handed over are completed and let your client know that if they have any questions, you will make yourself available to them.  Ask your manager if they would be willing to act as a reference.   Maintain your professionalism. The client who is forced to let you go early may one day be hiring again and you want them to remember you in a positive light.
  2. Talk to the Pros:   Your staffing agency has important, real time information about the market.  For example, while one sector of the economy is in upheaval, it doesn’t mean that opportunities don’t exist in other sectors (or other geographic locations).  They will know the lay of the land and can give you valuable knowledge and a big picture view of the market and where you might fit in it.  You also need to update them on any new skills you’ve acquired and make sure you’ve updated your resume so they have a fresh copy.  Keep in mind that it might be a good time to highlight specific projects or industry experience to mesh with where current opportunities lie.
  3. Update your status on Social Media and let contacts know: Updating your status on social media is critical.  You need to get the word out as quickly as possible and social media is an excellent way of doing it.  Be prepared for the questions that come with your updated status.  People will want to know what happened.
  4. Increase networking activity:  It’s time to step up your networking activity.  Industry events, professional organizations and other gatherings are great places to meet others in your field and gather intelligence on what is happening in the market and pick up strategies for dealing with an uncertain economy.  Many of us stop networking when things are going well. Instead, make networking an ongoing habit.
  5. Determine your acceptable levels of flexibility:  During an economic downturn, you Stressed contractor dealing with economic downturnmay decide that you need to widen your parameters.   Are you now willing to travel for a contract?  Should you lower your rate to be more competitive and are you ok taking on different roles which may not be as challenging or fun?  Make sure that you have these discussions with your family, partner, accountant or anyone else who is invested in your career.  Traveling for contracts can be a great way to escape a regional slowdown but it also has its challenges.  How will your family cope with you away much of the time? What are the financial implications? Will your rate cover the extra expenses of living in another city?   And what about your rate?  Most contractors would agree that lowering your expectations makes sense but how much do you move?  Again, talk to the professionals.  Recruiters are constantly monitoring the market and receive real time information about what rates are competitive in different markets.   And what about looking at different roles?  While this can sometimes work, for example, a PM taking on BA work, it is generally not an easy thing to do.  Clients pay a premium for contractors exactly because of the expertise they bring to the table.  It could be argued that many PMs are capable of doing BA work, but there is a general sense in the marketplace that you hire BAs to do BA work.  Trying to force your resume to make it fit another skillset rarely works and recruiters and clients alike are trained to uncover the truth.
  6. Stay confident:  Don’t allow frustration to creep in.  If your search is progressing slowly, keep meeting and talking to others in your field.  Not only is it important to continue to gather information, just the act of getting out and having a purpose to your day is integral.  You’ll feel better and the information you gather could lead to your next contract.
  7. Upgrade your skills:  If you decide to ride the downturn out, now might be a great time to upgrade your skills.  Get that certification you need to complete your resume.  Most recruiters will ask you about work gaps in your resume and will understand when the timing corresponds with an economic event — especially when you’ve filled in the gap by taking courses or programs which help you become a more marketable candidate.
  8. Respond appropriately to the market:  In times of change, the job market can shift considerably.  A market that supported a great deal of contract work may change 180 degrees.  Now, not only are you out of a contract, but the only roles being offered are as permanent employee.  While anyone can understand the pressures of having to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head, it is important to protect both your integrity and your reputation.  Taking a perm role with the intention of leaving as soon as the next contract comes along can damage both.  If you decide to consider permanent opportunities, look for a role where the benefits are mutual and commit to making it work.  You have a great deal to offer as an employee and companies can offer training and benefits that you might not otherwise have access to.   While workplace tenure is a thing of the past, you can maintain your reputation as a professional if you go into this scenario with the objective of making it a win-win.

Do you have any other tips to add?  Have you tried any of the above and would like to share your experiences?  Add your comments below!