Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: preparation

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

10 Tips to Master the Phone Interview

It’s very common these days that before going for a face-to-face interview, you’ll be required to do a phone interview, either with a client or a recruiter at an agency.  It could be for any number of reasons – perhaps it’s because you’re submitting your name to a contract in another city, or maybe there are so many qualified applicants that they’re looking to narrow down the options.  Regardless of the why, you need to be prepared.  Here’s a great infographic we found at Talent And Recruitment.com with some great tips to master the phone interview.

10 Tips to Master the Phone Interview by TalentAndRecruitment.com
10 Tips to Master the Phone Interview by TalentAndRecruitment.com

10 Tips on Working your Plan

If you want to be successful as a contractor, then you need to focus your energies on the types of activities that move you towards your goals and the work that you want to do.

Some excellent advice says Plan your Work and Work Your Plan.  We would take it one step further: Plan Your Work and Be Very Focused in Working Your Plan!

Person creating a planHere’s some quick tips:

  1. When working on any contract, be VERY focused on those activities in your plan! Always perform all tasks with 100%, but ensure you’re especially building good references to help land future contracts that fit into your plan.
  2. When you’re at a client site, be social with those around you but do NOT get sucked into long conversations, solve- the-world discussions or “whine sessions” about the company’s internal problems.
  3. Stay Positive! Your attitude will ultimately determine your success.
  4. Use GREAT time management techniques and continually upgrade your time management skills. The most successful people are incredibly productive and that is no accident!
  5. Don’t focus on other people too much. YES emulate those who are successful, YES learn from those around you and YES be happy for your colleagues’ success. But do not worry that “she” is better than you, that “he” is getting better contracts or that “they” should do their job better. Focus 99% of your energies on making YOU better, getting YOU where you need to be and on YOUR success.
  6. Keep focused on the positive. It doesn’t matter what happened last month, last week, yesterday or even an hour ago. By “working your plan” with a view to now and the future you will be moving towards success.
  7. Remember that we are all human and we all make mistakes so don’t sweat it!
  8. Remember to revisit your plan often enough that it is not stale, but not so often that it never gets a chance to be executed.
  9. Look for solutions not problems.
  10. Did we mention Stay Positive? Positive people make things happen, focus on the good, and, from our experience, clients love having them around!

Do you have a plan?  If so, how do you keep the right attitude to drive towards it?  We’d love your input!  Leave us a comment below.

How to Take Advantage of an Opportunity

Life offers us opportunities all the time — the trick is spotting them and taking advantage of them.

When you are new to a client, new to an agency or just networking to enhance your reputation as a contractor, you will be presented with opportunities to shine, either through the normal course of business or better yet, because you made it happen!

Here are some thoughts for you

  1. If you get the chance to chat with someone influential be prepared to have a meaningful conversation.
  • Do you have something interesting to tell?
  • Can you ask interesting questions and stimulate conversation?
  • Are you actually prepared for the opportunity or are you going to wing it?
  • Do you know what messages you want to get across, and how best to present them?
  1. Business PeopleYou might be a guest at a client function, a charity event or some other “social business-related” setting.
  • Do you know how to behave?
  • Do you understand etiquette and manners?
  • Do you know who will be there and what you might say to them?
  • Are you treating it like an opportunity to shine?
  1. You may find yourself in large networking events.
  • Do some research – who will be there, what is the event is all about, what is the history, who are the organizers etc.
  • Learn how to network.  There are many sources that offer advice and some training.
  1. At any time in your career you may find yourself with opportunity.
  • Remember the basics.
  • Do NOT just play it on instincts.
  • Be prepared.
  • Put your best foot forward.

Never assume that you know it all, that you have the experience and that your past experiences have prepared you for this moment.  You might just let the moment slip through your grasp for lack of a little preparation.

Some of the dangers lurking in the shadows of your contract opportunities:

  1. People’s opinion of you can be colored, good or bad, very quickly.
  2. One small indiscretion can cause the red flags to go up, meaning that you now have a hurdle to overcome.
  3. A favorable impression on the right person can go a long way.
  4. Some of the classic moments that will  not help your business:
  • Getting drunk at a client function — social or not;
  • Speaking from the hip, possibly because of too many drinks.  Nothing wrong with a little honesty, but always be cognizant of your audience.
  • Not being prepared for a meeting.
  • Being given an opportunity to present ideas/concepts/opportunities and focusing on negatives, not solutions.
  • Talking too much.
  • Not listening enough.
  • Ignoring the normal etiquette of a situation.

All of the above could have been opportunities to impress or to build your reputation in your industry. Remember, as an independent contractor, your reputation, among potential clients, within recruitment agencies, and even among your peers is critical.  There’s a good chance that all of these groups will talk to each other and hurting your image with one can affect future contracts or partnerships.

How do you keep your reputation in tact?  Share your comments below.

Tips for Business Travellers

Depending on your expertise, your client, or demand in your hometown, there’s a good chance that as an independent contractor, you have to travel for business.  At the start of July, we provided some tips to maximize your time on the road.  Further to that, we surveyed some executives at Eagle who travel frequently and came up with a few extra tips:

  1. Be organized and don’t leave stuff till the last minute.  Pick your seat, book your hotel, etc. well ahead to get best prices, the right schedule and the seat/hotel you want.
  2. If you have not been there before do a little research.  Google map the area, look at hotel amenities, look at a local tourist sites for restaurant options etc.
  3. Consider using discount sites like Hotwire to get best pricing.
  4. AirplaneDon’t stress yourself out by arriving at the airport at the very last minute.  The more experience you have the more clear you become about how long it take to get to the airport, get through security etc.  Be sure to leave yourself time to pick up water, reading material, and snacks once through security.
  5. Don’t rely on the airline for drinks or food. It might work out fine, but be prepared.  Bring your own bottled water and nutritious snack.  You need to stay hydrated, and fed!
  6. Have all of your travel docs together (electronically and/or on paper)
  7. Create a “reading” file with photocopied/printed articles to use time productively (Note: an e-reader may do this even more efficiently)
  8. Create an airplane folder of work items you can “knock off” while captive on a plane.
  9. Exercise where possible. Consider a skipping rope, running stairs, push-ups and sit-ups if there is no gym.
  10. Travel as light as you can and do not check luggage if at all possible.  Some very specific thoughts on travelling light:
  • Get light luggage;
  • Mix and match clothes (ex. one suit with two pairs of pants will go a long way);
  • Learn to fold efficiently, so things don’t crease;
  • Pack as few toiletries as possible and  use hotel “stuff” when available;
  • If travelling to the same place all the time consider, leaving some stuff at the office there, (shirt, tie, pants, toiletries, casual clothes etc.);
  • Take exercise gear and pack stuff inside the shoes (razor, socks, underwear etc.) to save space; and,
  • Think through your stay and don’t take things “just in case”.  Do you really NEED casual clothes? If so, can a pair of jeans and a t-shirt complement your work jacket and shoes?

Business travel can be a real chore but if you do it right then you can minimize the hassles.  We’re sure there are many frequent travelers out there who have their own tips and tricks. Feel free to comment below!

How to Host Productive Meetings

Independent contractors aren’t necessarily “independent” when it comes to work.  Whether it’s meeting with clients, project managers, or user groups, you’re always working with a variety of people and, as such, there’s no way to avoid countless meetings throughout a contract.

Many of us will probably agree, though, that meetings are costly.  They take up time and may not even accomplish anything, except potentially scheduling another useless meeting.

So, how can you make sure meetings aren’t wasting your time?  Let’s start by considering a few facts:

  • Meetings are necessary in any organization.
  • Most organizations are not very good at organizing, running and following up on meetings.
  • Most people who attend meetings are not 100% engaged, which wastes everybody’s time.
  • Most meetings don’t have a clear agenda, goals and desired outcomes.
  • Most meetings include people who don’t need to be there, many don’t include people who should be there.
  • When most meetings end, the participants very often walk away without another thought to what was discussed, and what was decided.
  • Many meetings result in the “genesis” of some very good ideas, but they go nowhere.

Productive MeetingAll of that considered, if you want to host productive meetings:

  1. Be very clear about what the meeting objective, together with a defined agenda and expected outcomes.  This exercise will also highlight whether the meeting is actually needed!
  2. All participants should be informed in plenty of time, armed with all of the background material necessary and arrive prepared.
  3. Everyone should understand the rules of the meeting. For example arrive on time, be prepared, phones turned off, total focus on the task at hand, input is expected and tolerance for everyone is also expected.  Group think is not expected or appreciated.
  4. Everyone should take notes, and one specific person should be assigned to take and distribute minutes.
  5. The meeting should not end before measurable action items are decided and assigned.
  6. If people are going to need to access phones during the meeting, then appropriate “intermission” time should be built in.
  7. Whoever is chairing the meeting should be skilled in (a) getting participation from the “quiet voices” and (b) ensuring the more extrovert participants don’t take over.
  8. Be very conscious that everyone’s time is precious!

Meetings solve problems, bring ideas, help companies get where they need to be, but they are expensive, so do them right! How do you keep meetings on track and productive?  What are your meeting pet peeves? We’d love to hear them.  Leave a comment below!

10 Tips for Your Job Interview

A while back, we asked our Recruiting Team to give a few pointers to independent contractors to help them increase their probability of success in job interviews. Here are their top tips:

  1. Learn a little about the company you are interviewing with. Your agency should give you some information. Take it one step further by looking at the client’s website and reading their annual report.  The best way to find out about a company’s current activities is by looking at their recent press releases.
  2. Research your interviewer. Know all the details about the person or people you are meeting.  Check out their LinkedIn profiles.
  3. First Impressions Count! Be sure to know where you are going and get there on time, or even a little early.
  4. Badly Dressed InterviewDress appropriately for the occasion.  Always err on the side of caution.  It is better to be over dressed than under dressed.
  5. Bring your resume. Some contractors have both a “short form” and a “long form” resume that gives more detail about their work. Bring copies of both.  These can be useful to an interviewer.
  6. Prepare for the interview. Make sure you are ready for any questions they might ask you.  Read the job description carefully.  It usually offers clues as to their priorities.
  7. Prepare some questions for them.  Ask questions about the role, the team, the project, the environment etc.  Ask clarifying questions in relation to the job description.
  8. Be confident (but not arrogant) and answer questions directly. Don’t try to avoid questions, if you don’t know the answer then fess up.  Truth goes a long way!
  9. Try to relax, smile, hold eye contact and be friendly with your interviewer.
  10. Be aware of annoying habits that you may have when under pressure, for example tapping or clicking your pen, scratching your head, sniffing etc.  Once you’ve identified these habits, make a conscious effort to avoid them.  Keeping a notepad handy and writing notes through an interview will not only show that you’re interested but can also help provide a distraction from those habits.

Contractors typically will have hundreds of interviews in their career so refining interview skills key in ensuring many successful contracts.  What helps you with your interviews?  Share your advice with your fellow contractors by leaving a comment!

6 Tips for Your Next Networking Event

Back in June, we emphasized the importance of networking for independent contractors and posted a few tips to get started.   “Be prepared for every event” is crucial to getting the most out of networking, so with that in mind, consider these 6 tips when preparing for your next networking event:

  1. Set yourself a goal, or a couple of goals. Your goal may be about the number of people you want to meet — if it is a sizable group then talking with 10 people might be possible. To get a “connection” with 2 of them would be a good outcome.  Or, your goal may be about the type of people you’d like to connect with.  Do you want to introduce yourself to new recruiters?  Meet the executive of your current or future clients?  Find like-minded contractors as potential partners?
  2. Remember the point of the event.  It is not a social event, it is a networking event and you want to meet as many people as possible. It is important to be able to disengage from those people who “cling” to you,  your colleagues and even those people you really “connect” with, in order to meet more people.

One idea: “It’s been great talking with you and I would really enjoy continuing People Networkingour conversation, but I promised myself I would meet lots of people here tonight. Can I call you and plan to get together when we have more time to talk?

  1. People like to talk about themselves so get them talking. Go armed with questions that will achieve this.
  • Who do you work for?
  • How long have you been there?
  • Have you been in the field long?
  • Have you been a member of this organization long?
  • What do you think of this event?

Once the conversation goes then it becomes easier to keep going as you find topics of mutual interest.

Note:  You may be surprised that you can get everyone talking a lot, but no one will ask about yourself! This is good. They will remember you as an interesting person because you showed interest in them. Mission accomplished.

  1. Gauge people’s body language as you approach them. You will know if they are going to be open to talking very quickly.  People that are by themselves are the easiest to approach. Groups of 3 or more are the next easiest, and will often “allow” you into their conversation. Do not try to approach two people engaged in a conversation, it is very difficult to break into a two person conversation.
  2. Do not hang out with people you know. In fact, it is better to go to these events alone so that you are forced to mingle. Very often you will see two or three people from the same organization, or who know each other well, off together which is not much value to them from a networking perspective.
  3. Take lots of business cards, and give them out. You’ll meet many people; some may be your next Recruiter/Client/Contracting Partner.  You want to make sure they remember you and know how to contact you.  But don’t trust them to do so, get their business card and write a small note on it to remember who they were.

Preparation is the key to success for contractors in so many ways, and networking is no different.  If you start with a goal and work your plan, you will no doubt have a successful evening.  Do you have any tips to add to our list?  Leave us a comment!

Managed Service Providers and Independent Contractors

The Canadian IT Job Market has traditionally been very competitive. In today’s world, many Clients have increased that level of competition by engaging a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is an MSP?

An MSP or Managed Service Provider is a company engaged by the client organization to manage multiple staffing vendors.  MSPs are generally mandated to manage performance including tracking a variety of metrics to ensure staffing vendors are performing to the company’s set standards.  Metrics can include evaluation of the quality of candidates, turnaround times, review of rates, submissions versus candidates interviewed, etc.

How do MSPs affect the Independent Contractor?

When an agency receives a contract order request from an MSP, each agency is usually given the opportunity to submit their top two or three candidates.  Due to the number of Agencies working with these MSPs, there are generally a substantially high number of resumes submitted against one contract opportunity.   This means, that when an independent contractor is submitting a resume through an MSP it becomes increasingly more important for resumes to stand out among the pool of potential candidates.

In addition to a high volume of candidates, when working with an MSP, recruiters typicallyBalancing many resumes have less of an opportunity to sell you and your skills to the client, making it more important than ever to work with your Agency to ensure you distinguish yourself by making sure your resume accurately demonstrates your experience so that it stands out among the masses.

Here are some tips to ensure your resume rises to the top:

  1. Ensure your resume is current.  Don’t wait to do it later. Turnaround time with MSPs is usually extremely fast, so when an Agency calls you, it’s key to have a current electronic copy of your resume available. If you take too long to submit an updated resume, you can easily miss your chance at being submitted.
  2. Maintain multiple resumes if you perform multiple roles (i.e. Business Analyst, Project Manager, etc.).  Ensure that each resume iteration demonstrates your niche skills for the specific role to which you’re applying.
  3. Include all relevant technology experience as well as industry experience (i.e. Banking, Government, Insurance).   You want to prove to the client that you have more than the required skills and that you understand their specific environment.
  4. Don’t submit your resume to multiple agencies for the same opportunity, this will only hurt you!  If you give an Agency the “Right to Represent” (RTR) you for a particular opportunity, this means you’re giving them the right as an approved Agency within that MSP to submit your resume.  If you allow that to happen with multiple Agencies, it will result in your resume being submitted twice (a.k.a. Dual submission), and the Client may automatically disqualify you.
  5. Work with your Agency to understand all the relevant contract details.  If you have time, you’ll be able to tweak your resume to include relevant experience relating specifically to the client, industry or project.

These are some very basic tips that can increase the odds of your resume being selected among the hundreds that get submitted to an MSP.  Do you have any other tips to get noticed by a client working with an MSP?  Would you like to know more about MSPs?  We’d love your feedback.  Leave us a comment!