Talent Development Centre

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The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about RFPs.

Why You Should Complete a Skills Matrix and the Secret to Filling One Out

Melissa Bryanton By Melissa Bryanton,
Proposal Manager at Eagle

Have you ever been contacted by a Recruiter who had a great IT contract opportunity where you’re perfectly qualified, but when they send you the details, it includes a massive skills matrix to complete? Suddenly, the job application that you thought would only require a quick resume update and email is turning into a daunting, time-consuming project. You think: Is this job even worth it? Why is the Recruiter wasting my time?

Why You Should Complete a Skills Matrix and the Secret to Filling One OutThe last thing the Recruiter wants to do is waste your time. However, they do need your help highlighting your relevant experience and qualifications that make you a great fit for the job. You would be wise to question any Recruiter who claims they can take your resume as-is, update it and complete the matrix for you. While this seems like a great time-saver, you are the only person who can legitimately explain how your experience matches the client’s job requirements. The risks in allowing an agency to take your resume and run with it is: 1) the resume becomes full of fabricated experience that may or may not make sense – not all recruiters may understand the complexity of your skills or 2) you and the Recruiter spend a lot more time going back and forth on the details in the 11th hour. The outcome of either scenario is going to be negative. Collaborating with the Recruiter on tailoring your resume and completing the matrix is the best option to increase your chances of winning the contract.

What is a Grid/Matrix?

A matrix, also sometimes referred to as a grid, is client-mandated, and usually required when the staffing agency must submit a proposal to their client in response to an RFP, rather than simply submitting a few resumes to the client. The matrix is a document with a table that the client developed, which often includes mandatory and point-rated requirements in one column, and a space in the other column for the candidate to explain their relevant experience and qualifications. The purpose of the matrix is to demonstrate how the candidate meets all the client’s requirements.

What Makes a Successful Matrix?

The key to submitting a winning matrix to a client is detail. Usually, if a candidate is requested through an RFP process, it means 1) there will be many other applicants, and 2) the client must back-up their selection by clearly demonstrating they chose the candidate who meets all the job requirements. As such, if you want a shot at winning a contract that requires a proposal submission, you must be prepared to show as much evidence of your experience as possible.

What Should You Do If Your IT Contract Requires a Matrix?

If your Recruiter tells you your submission will require you to complete a matrix or grid, try not to run for the hills. Keep in mind that many other candidates will also pass up on the opportunity, so you’re already more competitive by proceeding. Here are a few tips to make the process easier and more efficient for yourself:

  • Don’t Panic! Matrices can look challenging with way too much of a time commitment. They can also be confusing. If you open a matrix and immediately feel the pit in your stomach, then contact your Recruiter. The good ones will walk you through the process, explain the requirements, and help you confirm your chances at winning the contract.
  • Start Right Away. As mentioned, matrices are usually associated with RFPs, which have hard deadlines. When a Recruiter tells you they need your information by a certain day, there is little to no flexibility. Therefore, start working on matching your experience to the requirements as quickly as possible.
  • Build Out Your Resume. Matrices actually provide a major competitive advantage in a job search because the client reveals exactly what they are looking for. Go through the matrix, item by item, and highlight all the relevant experience in your resume. If more detail is needed, tailor your experience in your resume and explain how you meet each requirement. Don’t be concerned if your resume becomes extremely long – the “2 to 5-page resume” advice doesn’t apply to RFP responses as the client is looking for as much detail as possible.
  • Quickly Cross-Reference to Your Resume. Number each contract or project in your resume for cross-referencing purposes. Without writing any content in the matrix, go through each item and refer to the project or contract in your resume where you have the relevant experience. Also include the length of time of each project or contract, to quickly see how well you qualify for this role, or if you’re coming up short against any of the requirements.

The Overall Secret to Completing a Skills Matrix

The best advice for completing a matrix is to focus on your resume. We often see candidates get fixated on that matrix and wanting to write specific explanations, but if those details are not backed-up in your resume, they will mean nothing. Instead, spend your time expanding on your experience in your resume. Even if you think a task is implied or too basic, if it will help prove you meet a requirement in the matrix, write about it in your resume. As long as you meet their deadlines, a good staffing agency will confirm you meet the requirements, polish your resume and develop the matrix to meet the client’s very stringent RFP response criteria. Matrices can be complex and seemingly impossible, but with the right staffing agency they shouldn’t be time-consuming or overwhelming.

Surviving the RFP Process

Melissa Bryanton By Melissa Bryanton,
Proposal Manager at Eagle

Surviving the RFP ProcessA Recruiter has contacted you to discuss a new opportunity they are working on. The Recruiter goes over the qualifications their client is looking for and it sounds like a great match for your skillset. You start to get excited and then you hear the Recruiter say “RFP” and “government client”. If you have gone through the Request for Proposal (RFP) process with a staffing company before, you may understand what you are getting yourself into. If not, you are in for an interesting ride full of red tape and unexpected twists and turns.

Any independent contractor that has undergone the rigorous process of having their profile presented in a formal proposal knows that this is no easy task. A good professional staffing company should have a Proposal Team to help guide their Recruiting colleagues, and in turn, their candidates through the RFP process. Here are a few words of friendly advice from the Eagle Proposal Team if you are interested in entering the world of government contracts and are asked to prepare your resume for a proposal:

  • The long haul – the RFP process will be lengthy for you, the candidate, and for the Recruiter. Pulling together the proposal will take a lot of time and effort on both sides. Then you will wait, and wait, and wait some more for the client to evaluate all of the proposals and finally award a contract. This often takes months rather than weeks. Try to be patient and trust that your Recruiter will provide updates as soon as they receive any news from the client.
  • Form an alliance – Remember that the Recruiter is on your side and will do everything they can to help you win. So when they ask you to be more specific when describing your experience, or re-write parts of your resume, it is because they believe you are the right fit for the role and they want you to get the job!
  • Ask questions – If the job qualifications do not make sense to you, ask your Recruiter for clarification. If the Recruiter also finds the requirements confusing, they can have questions submitted to the client to get a better understanding of the qualifications.
  • Mandatory = Must Have. No Exceptions – Understand that if a qualification is referred to as Mandatory that it must be met. Government clients use Mandatory Requirements to quickly disqualify candidates during the evaluation process. The Recruiter will work with you to draw out the specific details the client will be looking for in your resume. The Proposal Team will conduct a second-level review of your resume and identify any areas where the resume requires more specific detail.
  • Honesty is key – Most RFPs include Point-Rated Criteria in addition to the Mandatory Requirements. Be honest with your Recruiter when comparing your experience to the Rated Criteria and assigning yourself a score. Again, any experience claimed has to be validated and will be reviewed by the Recruiter and the Proposal Team before your resume is submitted as part of the proposal.
  • Less is more (sometimes) – Now that you have been asked to edit, re-write and add to your resume and make everything as detailed as possible, here is a curve ball – a 40 to 50 page resume does not benefit you or the people reviewing it. If you have several projects that you worked on concurrently, keep the stronger ones that closely match the requirements. If the role you are being proposed for only calls for a maximum of five years within the last ten years, drop any projects that are more than ten years old. Cut your resume down as much as possible while leaving in the relevant detail and projects that demonstrate how you meet the client requirements.

The government RFP process is unique and demanding. Always remember that your Recruiter and their Proposal Team are there to support you throughout the process. Buddy up with your Recruiter and settle in because it’s going to be a long race to the finish line!