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You’re Coming Off a Long-Term IT Contract… What Now?

You're Coming Off a Long-Term IT Contract… What Now?

Graeme Bakker By Graeme Bakker,
Director, Delivery Strategy & Development at Eagle

There’s nothing better than getting into a groove with the right client on the right project. The work is exciting, the team is fantastic and the pay isn’t so bad either. As you build relationships and get deeper into the project, your client is thrilled to extend your contract a few times, and before you know it, this has been your main gig for a few years. But alas, all good things must come to an end. The project is complete and as much as the client would love to reassign you, there just isn’t much going on right now. Suddenly, you find yourself back on the market.

Here are a few tips if you’re finding yourself job searching, or plan to be soon, and haven’t been in these shoes for a while:

  • Be proactive. If you are coming off of a lengthy contract, make sure to get ahead of your search and give yourself plenty of time before the current contract runs out.
  • If you take break, do it with caution. Many senior consultants will tell me that they are not worried about taking a couple months off if they can’t find something right away. This is not a good move as the majority of the time those couple months can add up to more time than you are comfortable with. In today’s market, it is never a bad idea to always have ‘irons in the fire.’
  • It’s going to be work, and you should be prepared for that. The market is always changing and what was in-demand and trendy might not be the way of the world since you were last looking for a role. You might have to interview more than once and the first role you interview for might not go through. Be prepared to do some work on your resume, put the ego aside and get all the information you can from your recruiter.
  • Stay connected. Speak with a recruiter (and continue to do so on all your contracts) so that you can keep your ear to the ground and are aware of what to expect since you were last interviewing. Staying up to date on the market trends throughout all your contracts is a good way to stay educated on what is expected for the next job.
  • Network! If you are not still doing this, it would be a good time to get back into networking events to put yourself out there and start to get used to selling yourself and your skills again. This will allow you to work out the interview muscles and get used to being forward about your accomplishments.
  • Be open to permanent roles. You might have been on the contract for quite a while and enjoyed the stability. In the current landscape and market we are in now, permanent roles are surfacing more and more. Be open to all opportunities, you never know.

Being back on the market after a long IT contract can be daunting and nerve-wracking. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to your favourite tech recruiter and I guarantee they’ll be happy to get you on your way and into your next placement before you know it.

Sick of People Pronouncing Your Name Wrong? LinkedIn Built a Solution!

Sick of People Pronouncing Your Name Wrong? LinkedIn Built a Solution!

Do you have one of those names? When you were a kid, while the teacher took attendance, there was a slight pause before reading your name, followed by a complete mess of what you thought should be an obvious pronunciation. And then it continued through the years. MCs, announcers, even your own friends completely mutilate your name, and they always find new, unique ways to do it.

Your professional life isn’t immune to these awkward situations either. When a recruiter calls for the first time, they slowly try pronouncing it three different ways until you finally interrupt and correct them. In an interview, your client-to-be confidently calls you something completely wrong… how and when are you going to correct this? Do you accept that this is your name for the duration of the contract?

A hard-to-pronounce name will never rule you out of jobs or hurt your chances of getting an interview. It does come with some frustrating moments in your career, though, so what can you do about it? The first-place recruiters, clients or employers learn about you is typically your resume, so why not start there? Resume experts have recommended a number of tactics:

  • Including an easier to pronounce “nickname” (this only works for a first name)
  • Writing out your name fuh-nEt-i-klee underneath the actual spelling
  • Including relatable tips on how to say your name (ex. sounds like _____________ )

You can also just include the address of your LinkedIn profile because the professional social network has stepped in to save the day!

LinkedIn’s Name Pronunciation Tool

Back in July, LinkedIn released a new tool that they say helps employers create a good first impression and build an inclusive workplace. As a bonus, it helps you minimize the many variations you hear of your name! The tool is extremely easy to use and quick to set-up, but you will need the LinkedIn mobile app to get started.

From the app, simply go to your profile and select to edit it. You’ll see an option by your name that says “Name Pronunciation”. From there, you can record yourself saying your name, slowly and clearly, as long as it fits within a 10 second timeframe. Now when anybody views your profile, whether in an app or a browser, a speaker icon will appear beside your name. When clicked, the user will hear exactly how your name should be said.

If you haven’t already, set-up your LinkedIn name pronunciation today. If you have one of those names, leave a comment in your resume or highlight in your LinkedIn profile, letting visitors know how easy it is to say your name properly.

LinkedIn's Name Pronunciation Tool

Why Recruiters Ask You to “Rewrite Your Resume” for an RFP Response

Crystal Nicol By Crystal Nicol,
Delivery Manager, Eastern Canada at Eagle

Why Recruiters Ask You to "Rewrite Your Resume" for an RFP ResponseI was recently at a networking event and overheard IT contractors discussing how their staffing agency was having them basically rewrite their resume for an RFP response and they couldn’t understand why they were having them do all of the work. There was mutual agreement around the group that they’ve all experienced this and that they weren’t happy about it. I thought that was a great time to introduce myself and apologize for interrupting, but I couldn’t help but overhear their topic.

I asked them if their agency educated them on why they require the information they were asking for. All of them explained that they were simply sent a set of instructions and were told that they had to “send everything back” before the deadline. I took some time to discuss the reasons to them and after a lot of back and forth questions and answers, they understood the importance.

Remember, you, as the consultant, are the person doing the job every day. Between yourself and your recruiter, you are the only one who knows what you did, how you did it, in what context, with whom, what tools were used, etc. The last thing we want to do as an agency is guess or assume your experience. This is why your recruiter comes back to you to ask you to update your resume with the details. Yes, they can help you put your thoughts together but they need you for the details.

After discussing why it’s important to have a “federal government” formatted resume with the group consultants, I sent them this Talent Development Centre post I wrote a year and a half ago. It is a great starting point when any consultant is getting ready to respond to a Federal Government RFP.

New Resume Tips for IT Contractors

Take the generic technology resume advice you keep hearing (even here) and set it aside for a second. Those regular tips you hear are valuable, but so are the not-so-common pieces of information that you can find from some job search experts. In our regular quest for knowledge to share with the IT contracting community, we recently came across new resume tips and want to make sure our readers know them too…

Some Lesser-Known Resume Tips

Glassdoor published an article with 10 resume tips you probably haven’t thought of. While not all are relevant to an IT contractor and there are even a couple we do not necessarily recommend, this list does help a job seeker get into a different frame of mind:

  1. Only Include Your Address If It Works in Your Favour
    (our advice: if you have to lie or hide something, you probably shouldn’t apply)
  2. Be a Name Dropper
  3. Utilize Your Performance Reviews
    (or for a contractor, include references and testimonials)
  4. Don’t Go Overboard with Keywords
    (PLEASE consider this point strongly)
  5. Use Common-Sense Email Etiquette
  6. When It Comes to Skills, Quality over Quantity
  7. Choose to Share Social Accounts Strategically
  8. Use Hobbies to Your Advantage
    (our advice: hobbies are less interesting to a client hiring a contractor, compared to an employee looking for a permanent team member)
  9. Skip Generic Descriptors
  10. Keep an Accomplishment Journal

Flip-Flopping on the Objective Statement

Speaking of uncommon resume advice, although we’ve noted independent contractors need not include an objective statement on their resume, Pop! Your Career believes there are times it can help. According to their recent post, they say an objective statement is useful if you are:

  • Changing your career direction
  • Joining the Workforce
  • Returning to the Workforce
  • Looking for different type of work
  • Changing locations

In summary for an IT contractor, we stand by the fact that the objective statement isn’t helpful for the seasoned technology professional who regularly works with the same recruiters, if, however, you’re making any sort of change, its worth highlighting it at the top of your resume.

A Winning Resume-Writing Formula from Amazon

Over the summer, Business Insider interviewed a recruiter from one of the top IT companies in the world, and a place where thousands of technology professionals aspire to work — Amazon. In the resulting article, recruiting manager Celeste Joy Diaz provides a winning formula to use when writing your resume. Instead of a laundry list of tasks and skills, she says that every project should start with this phrase: I created a solve for X amount of customers and it saved X amount of money, using X skill.

What do the x’s represent in Diaz’s phrase? Data. Rather than bunch of fluff, centralizing your resume around this phrase ensures that you’re providing quantitative measures that show recruiters and hiring managers exactly what you accomplished.

What other outside-of-the-box resume advice can you provide? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below. If you have a great source or article, please let us know. We love learning new things so we can pass them along.

How Recruiters Know (or just think) You’re Lying

Experienced recruiters have talked to thousands of professionals throughout their careers. They get to meet great people and see hundreds of successful careers flourish, and they also see plenty of stunts by job seekers who will go to any extent to land a job. So naturally, recruiters who have been working with IT contractors for years are certain to catch the sneaky liars quite quickly. Unfortunately, it also means that they’re more skeptical of everyone. Even if you’re an ethical, honest professional, if you unintentionally raise a recruiter’s red flag, they may think you’re lying and proceed with caution, making your job search that much more difficult.

To avoid being falsely categorized as a sketchy candidate, it’s helpful to understand the basic signs recruiters use to identify unethical independent contractors. You’ll notice that it is easy to accidentally make these common mistakes and it could be the reason some recruiters are hesitant to follow-up on your recent job application.

Inconsistencies Between Your Resume and LinkedIn

Every recruiter is going to do at least some preliminary research before calling you in for an interview. This will, no doubt, include a look at your LinkedIn profile. In conjunction with reviewing your skills, projects and connections, they’re going to put your resume beside it to see if everything matches up. For many people, LinkedIn is a profile that you set-up quickly with little thought and then ignore for a while. Now consider how much effort goes into your resume, where you may provide more details, different titles, and additional experiences. While neither your online profile nor your resume is wrong, the differences cause a recruiter to ask some questions.

Inconsistencies Between Different Resumes

If you’ve submitted multiple resumes to a staffing agency over the years, you can be sure that your recruiter is reviewing your version from a few years ago as well. It’s impossible to change the past, so when they see that your education differs, time in a specific role got longer, or titles somehow changed, your credibility will start to dwindle. Especially in a tough job market, stretching the truth on your resume can be tempting. And while these little white lies do not make you unqualified or a bad person, they will hurt your chances hearing back from a recruiter.

Your Resume Looks Fake

Believe it or not recruiters receive a ton of fake, spammy resumes from people who want to get through the hiring process and make as much money as possible before they get figured out. The resumes are usually fabricated by the same people and need to be conspicuous enough to fool professionals, so they look extremely generic/templated and share many of the same traits. For example, fake resumes usually only include a simple Gmail address without any phone number or street address. The experience is also with large organizations scattered across North America, making it harder to verify. If you’ve engaged with a resume writing agency to help prepare your work or if your resume’s content naturally contains these symptoms, we recommend adding a personal touch with some explanations to avoid going directly into the burn pile.

There are Gaps in Your Resume

Perhaps you were travelling, took parental leave, required time for your health, or any other number of legitimate reasons to have a gap in your resume. To the skeptical recruiter, no matter how much they want to give you the benefit of the doubt, they wonder what you’re hiding. Did you work on a terrible project that was a disaster? Were you fired and don’t want the recruiter to know? As much as your personal reasons are none of a recruiter’s business, unless you help clarify the gaps in your resume, they’re going to make assumptions which may or may not be in your favour.

Your Story Changes

Ensure you carefully review your resume and everything you say you did, when you did it and how you did it. When a recruiter is interviewing (interrogating?) you in person, they may ask questions to catch some lies. Any inconsistencies in the story on your resume and the story you tell them will catch their attention. Even if the interviewer doesn’t see an inconsistency between your resume and your interview, it could be revealed when they call your reference. Especially when nervous, it’s easy to accidentally tell a story or explain a situation with details that aren’t accurate, which is why it’s always important to take a minute and think before answering any question.

There is nothing worse for a recruiter than an IT contractor who’s lied about their experience. Every recruiter has a dreadful story or two about that contractor who made it to onto a client’s site without half the qualifications they claimed. It does not take long for the client to recognize, the contractor is quickly fired, and the recruiter is left to pick up the pieces. It’s no wonder all recruiters are a little bit apprehensive when they see any discrepancies during the recruitment and hiring process.

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

The Latest Resume Tips and Trends for IT Contractors

Your resume is your IT contracting business’s number one marketing tool. When optimized, that is the document that will make a recruiter want to meet you as soon as possible or a client eager to hire you before sitting down for an interview. Given its importance, we like to keep you up-to-date on the latest trends and tips from resume writing professionals around the world. Here is a summary of some of the latest advice we’ve come across:

Highlight Skills Above all Else

It seems obvious that your resume should include your skills, but a recent article from Dice emphasizes how important a skills-based resume is. Referencing studies from HackerRank and Montage, the article highlights some key takeaways when writing your resume:

  • Recruiters and hiring managers prioritize experience, specifically how long an IT contractor has been working in a discipline.
  • Education such as degrees is at the bottom of the priority list of those evaluating tech resumes. They’re more interested in your deep history of personal objects and direct understanding of languages and frameworks.
  • More and more companies are hiring based specifically on skills, as seen in the rise of skills assessments and predictive analytics to determine who’s best suited for a position.
  • A list of side projects and proof you know your stuff will make your resume more attractive.

Links in Your Resume are Great, But Do Them Right

The Muse published a fantastic answer about links in resumes and it’s too good not so share. When Alyse Kalish asked career coach and job search expert Clatyon Wert if it was alright, Wert’s response was “It’s acceptable to use links in your resume, cover letter, or any form of the job application—assuming you’re submitting it online. I’m of the belief that 90% of applications are now online, and you should be adding links to your portfolio, your LinkedIn page, and possibly more depending on your industry and the type of work that you’ve done. It’s best to put as much out there as possible when applying to jobs, because attention is everything in the job search.

Wert also provided some extra tips for adding links correctly:

  • Link your proudest and best work, as well as projects related to which you’re applying
  • Use hyperlinks on keywords rather than an entire URL strand
  • If you must use an entire link (ex. Print documents), shorten it using tools like bit.ly
  • If you have a large list of potential links, create a separate portfolio or website
  • Place links in the header or beside your contact info
  • Test all links to ensure they work

Take Extra Care in Proof-Reading

Proof-reading your resume to avoid embarrassing mistakes is not a new trend, but this article from Grammarly has some unique tips for proof-reading (and they can be applied to more than just resumes!):

  • Take a break between the time you finish writing and start proof-reading
  • Print it out or change the font to view it differently
  • Read your work aloud to spot misspellings and repeated words
  • Use your finger to move along and force yourself to slow down
  • Keep a list of mistakes you make often
  • Pay special attention to titles, headings and lists which are often overlooked
  • Double check prepositions you aren’t sure about

Naturally, Grammarly also recommends trying their product to help edit.

How’s your resume been working for you lately? Have you tried any innovative techniques that are landing your more interviews with IT recruiters and hiring managers? If so, we want to hear about them! Please share your experience and tips in the comments below.

Job Hunting – The Devil is in the Details

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Job Hunting - The Devil is in the DetailsThey say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression and there is so much truth to that in the hiring process.  While there are a lot of different ways that a job seeker can differentiate themselves from the pack when applying for roles, one surprising differentiator is an attention to detail.

In the past 20 years, I have seen some great resumes, some terrible resumes and a lot that fall somewhere in between.  I once had a client compare receiving a resume to going on a first date and it was a comparison that I have never forgotten… one would never go on a first date without a little extra effort, so it stands to reason that we should do the same to impress a potential client or employer.

Here are a few quick tips to craft a great first impression through the application process:

  1. Avoid Senseless Mistakes– review your resume for typos, grammatical errors and inconsistent tense. When hiring managers receive a high number of applicants, often the first round of candidates to be eliminated are those that don’t make a great first impression because of grammar or spelling errors.
  2. Follow the Application Instructions– instructions in a posting are the first step in the evaluation process and small “traps” are often included to catch people who might “skim”.  If you are asked for a cover letter, produce one.  It will be used to evaluate both your written communication skills AND your ability to follow instructions.
  3. Customize Your Resume– focus on the role that you are interested in and match the relevant details in your resume to the job posting, but don’t duplicate the job posting.  The author of the job posting wants to see your experience and professionalism – they do not want to see their work plagiarized.
  4. Fact Check– make sure everything on your resume is accurate.  If you share any links (portfolio, websites, LinkedIn, etc), make sure they work as expected. Also, keep in mind that background, employment and education verifications are very common – in addition to traditional references.
  5. Google Yourself– you should expect that you will be searched at some point in the hiring process and often it is earlier than you think.  Do you need to clean up your social profile or adjust privacy settings?

Once your resume lands you the interview, here are some tips on how to knock the interview out of the park.

IT Contractors Should Take an SEO Approach to Writing a Resume

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science that digital marketers in all industries use to maximize their presence on top search engines, like Google. They use a variety of tools and strategies to ensure the content on their website is of top quality and the topic is clear to the search engines. The more a search engine trusts that page to answer a user’s question, the more likely it is to display a website at the top of the results.

When searching for candidates, nearly all staffing agencies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that scours through a database containing thousands of resumes. It uses intelligent algorithms to read through the content and return the candidates who best match a specific search — much like Internet search engines. So, if you want to get to the top of a recruiter’s search when they look for IT contractors with your skillset, then doesn’t it make sense to apply the same strategies a digital marketer uses to make their website appear at the top of a relevant search?

Perhaps the oldest but still extremely relevant SEO tactic is the use of keywords. Marketers plant relevant keywords and variations of them throughout their content and you should do the same with your resume. Continuously writing a specific skill throughout your experience or ensuring all of the titles in your past experience match what a recruiter would search will help boost your profile to the top of ATS results.

There are of course best-practices to adding keywords. When digital marketers fail to follow them, they quickly suffer negative results. The same can happen to an IT contractor who doesn’t properly think it through with their resume. A recent post on Recruiter.com by James Hu, the CEO of Jobscan, provides five types of keywords that will hurt your resume’s search results:

  1. Too-Soft Soft Skills: The generic, cliché keywords that mean nothing, nor separate you from others (ex. Hard Working and Team Player).
  2. Keyword Variations: Yes, above we mention that digital marketers use variations of keywords throughout their content, which helps capture the different ways people search. But search engines are intelligent enough to recognize all of these variations and connect them with different searches. Unfortunately, many Applicant Tracking Systems are not, meaning if you type “Project Managed” and the recruiter searches “Project Manager”, you may not appear.
  3. Almost Right Keywords: Again, Applicant Tracking Systems’ minimal intelligence compared to a large search engine means they don’t recognize your spelling mistakes. While your entire resume should be spellchecked, pay careful attention that your keywords are spelled correctly.
  4. Not-True-at-All Keywords: Unethical digital marketers stuff keywords onto irrelevant pages to get results. While this worked in the early years of SEO, search engines quickly caught on and blacklist these websites. Recruiters will do the same if you start putting keywords in that don’t even apply to your experience. It goes back to some of the best advice we can give: don’t lie on your resume.
  5. Out-on-an-Island Keywords: These keywords aren’t lies, but they do water down your relevance. Ensure the bulk of your content is related to the job to which you’re applying. A recruiter searching for a Business Intelligence Specialist probably won’t be running a search for “Horseback Riding” so you’re safe to remove that hobby from your resume. We promise.

We recently provided some additional resume tips for formatting and saving your resume to end up at the top of a recruiter’s search, and more specifically, to succeed in being found for government IT job opportunities. Do you strategically add keywords to your resume or take any other measures to ensure you end up at the top of a recruiter’s search? If not, you could be missing out on top IT contract opportunities.

Looking for Jobs? Have You Prepared Your Elevator Pitch?

Looking for Jobs? Have You Prepared Your Elevator Pitch?Grabbing somebody’s attention and easily explaining a product to them is the first step in any successful sales pitch. As such, sales professionals develop and polish an Elevator Pitch, a speech they can quickly blurt out to any potential client.  Not only does this makes the buyer know exactly what the product is, but also leaves them eager to learn more. As an IT contractor, you’re also always trying to sell your product (you) to your next client, so do you have an elevator speech prepared?

A few years ago we shared an infographic containing 5 simple steps to create your elevator pitch when searching for jobs. As helpful as it is, the design of infographics constrains the fine details so here is some additional information about elevator pitches, how independent contractors can create them for their technology consulting business, and best practices when delivering it.

What Is an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch is a 15-30 second summary or commercial about yourself, the premise being that 15-30 seconds is the time you have to get your point across in an average elevator ride. The ultimate goal is to explain to a recruiter, client, or colleague who you are, why you’re unique and what you can provide. Your elevator pitch comes in handy in multiple situations — job interviews, career fairs, voicemails, resume summaries and networking events.

How Job Seekers Can Create an Elevator Pitch

To achieve the best elevator pitch, you must plan it and improve it over time. Failure to do so can result in disaster. Especially when you’re nervous, an unprepared person can blurt out words out that they never imagined and will later regret. It’s not enough just to think about your elevator pitch, you also have to write it down… and practice it!

The first thing to remember while creating your elevator pitch is to keep it simple. Tell your story and paint a picture that perfectly describes you, but you don’t confuse or distract your listener with too many details. In it’s simplest form, your elevator speech should include your name, your field and what you provide. Depending on the situation, you can also include what you’re seeking, your goals, why they should care, and a request for action.

That’s right! Different situations mean you’ll need to prepare multiple elevator speeches. For example, when at a networking event and meeting somebody for the first time, it would be tacky to immediately jump into a sales pitch that tells your listener why they should hire you and where you’d like to go in your career. On the other hand, when an interviewer asks point blank “Why should we hire you?” they would welcome such a detailed response.

Giving Your Job Search Elevator Pitch

When the time comes to finally introduce yourself and deliver the work of art you’ve prepared, don’t blow it. The delivery is just as important as the preparation. Remember to smile, be confident and have energy. At the same time, though, relax and avoid talking too fast or rambling. Finally, have a business card prepared to hand out afterwards.

A solid elevator pitch is a crucial sales tool for every professional so if you don’t have one, we highly recommend you get started. If you have already created a successful speech, then we’d love to learn more about your process in creating it and what you do to shine above the others. Please share your tips in the comments below!