Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: staffing agencies

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

Customer Service – A Challenge for the Service Industry

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

A common challenge for any company in the service industry is building and maintaining strong, positive customer service. One airline in Canada recently sent out an email campaign thanking us for voting them the “best airline in North America, again.” I won’t mention names, but think about ANY airline that you know – there is so, so, so much room for improvement with all of them. You’d think that if they wanted to be honest, they wouldn’t say they were the best airline industry in North America, instead they’d use the slogan “we suck less!”

Staffing agencies struggle with this as well – yet we absolutely offer legitimate value in the service we provide. Without staffing companies, hiring would be extremely inefficient. Our industry’s intense focus on this one aspect results in our use of people, processes, and technologies that wouldn’t be cost-effective for individual companies to purchase/hire. The staffing industry saves our economy millions of dollars vs. what would need to be spent if there were no agencies. And from the consultant’s perspective, it is very hard to work on assignment and still find time to market themselves. Agencies have insight into opportunities that would be near impossible to find on their own.

Yet, our industry has an image problem. We are often seen as a “necessary evil”, rather than being embraced as a partner. As hard as we try, we are not able to please everyone all the time. Some relationships become strained and the result is dissatisfaction. At Eagle we try to be as reasonable as possible. But we still have a business to run, staff to pay, and technology in which to invest. We make it a point not to take advantage of people, but we cannot allow people to take advantage of us either. We try to set realistic expectations with both clients and consultants and do what we can to remain true. Sometimes business realities change and make it impossible to hold the line set. But when this happens we try our best to work through things with as much fairness and transparency as possible.

Eagle is ISO 9001:2015 certified, meaning that we have a quality framework that we use to manage our business and that the management team and staff are knowledgeable about our processes and committed to delivering quality always. Part of being certified is measuring how we are doing against our quality goals. For this we conduct monthly surveys with both our consultants and our clients to solicit feedback – what we’ve done well, what we’ve done poorly, and we look for opportunities to make our processes even better. All in all, this has worked well for us over the years.

However, the staffing industry, despite having strong industry associations such as ACSESS and the NACCB, requires no/limited licensing or certification requirements to participate. Anyone can hang a shingle on their door and they are a recruiter. Published codes of ethics for agencies exist and most follow the code set out by ACSESS, but they are not compulsory. Here at Eagle we have also implemented our own code of ethics. But a few bad apples can spoil things for all.  A case in point is the new “protective legislation” that the Ontario Government has put into place. The legislation is meant to protect at-risk temp workers, but as is often the case, the unintended consequences result in burdens on our industry and in some cases, the legislation actually hurts the very people that they were intending to help.

And what about incorporated consultants and contractors? They provide a service too. Their company is part of the service industry and has many of the same customer service challenges. If a consultant contracts directly to the end-client (a practice that has seen dramatic reductions thanks to some of the government legislation and CRA deemed-employee rules) then their client is the company that they work for. If, however, a consultant works through an agency then they have two clients – the agency who hired them and the company at which they are providing their services. Do contractors think of the agency as their client? Do they treat their agency as they would with other clients? The most successful consultants work in partnership with their agencies, coordinating and collaborating to find lucrative and successful engagements. These contractors are re-engaged by the agency for other opportunities as often as possible. Consultants offering poor customer service are not.

The service industry can be exciting, fast-paced, and rewarding. But it is hard as well. Any services-based company relies on their reputation to win new and (especially) repeat business and a big part of this is the level of customer service that is provided. This is important to Eagle as evidenced by our extensive investment in and commitment to our ISO quality standards. Managing a services business, regardless of its size, requires one to treat both customers and suppliers well. This is true for all companies within the Service Industry – airlines, staffing agencies, and for independent incorporated contractors alike.

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.

Bill 148: What Independent Contractors Need to Know

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

The Ontario Government introduced a sweeping legislation last fall regarding work and the ESA (Employment Standards Act). Many of the changes came into effect on January 1, 2018 with additional pieces that took effect April 1, 2018 and more to come on January 1, 2019.

Bill 148 covers an array of components. In addition to the headline-grabbing dramatic increase of minimum wage, there are changes to vacation entitlement, personal emergency leave, equal pay and termination of assignment pay for temporary employees, union certification rules and many others. All of these components have very significant impacts to employers and employees alike.

However, another very significant impact of Bill 148 that directly impacts independent contractors is employee misclassification. The new bill introduced a reverse onus provision whereby employers must demonstrate that any independent contractors they have engaged are not in fact employees.  Bill 148 shifts a substantial new burden of risk to employers and employment staffing agencies and will potentially have several unintended consequences as a result. As is often the case with activist governments, it is the unintended consequences of legislation that can be the most impactful.

In Ontario, it is estimated that about 12.5% of the total workforce of 5.25 million identify as self-employed, which is about 630,000 contingent workers. It is further estimated that of this group about 55,000 are knowledge workers in the IT, Engineering, Finance and Healthcare sectors, who bring significant economic impact to many of Ontario’s private and public sector organizations. The majority of these knowledge workers are independent, incorporated contractors. As the nature and notion of work transforms to a more project or engagement-based ideation, these knowledge workers are critical. With the modernization of our economy and overall productivity and competitiveness, our governments should be looking for ways to adapt to this new reality.

With the new legislation, when there is a question about whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor, the reverse onus provision is triggered. This means the burden lands on the employer or agency to prove the individual engaged with them is an independent contractor, not an employee and as such would be excluded from ESA coverage. As experience indicates, work moves offshore when employers are faced with impediments like this. Employers losing access to these valuable resources on a contingent basis should be very concerned.

Employers and staffing agencies are now looking at ways of assessing individuals to understand the true nature of relationships early on in engagements to ensure this risk is mitigated. These early assessments will help determine whether such individuals are properly classified as independent contractors.

As an independent contractor, there are a number questions you can ask to help establish the nature of your relationship with your clients. Here are a few of them to keep in mind:

  1. Are you providing services through a corporation?
  2. Have you registered with CRA for GST/HST?
  3. Do you carry business insurance, such as commercial liability or errors and omissions insurance?
  4. Do you market your services as a business, for example with a website, business cards, etc.?
  5. Do you have a corporate bank account, use business invoices in the corporate name and maintain corporate books and records?
  6. Do you have a written contract engaging your business? Is it for a fixed term period or completion of a project?
  7. Do you have the ability to determine how the services are provided?
  8. Have you invested his or her own financial resources into their business?
  9. Is there risk of loss or financial loss if the services are not successfully completed?

The answers to these questions will also help employers and agencies assess an individual’s status. There are numerous others that will have to be asked to help ascertain answers for all parties and ensure against employee misclassification. And just as important, independent contractors will need to be prepared to self-assess. Those who wish to be independent incorporated contractors should seek advice. Govern yourself as a business would and avoid acting or being treated as an employee.

2018 is Looking Great for Jobs in Canada… What Does That Mean for Employers?

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

As we head into the New Year, the economic news across the country, especially as it relates to employment and jobs in Canada, would strongly suggest we are at or close to peak full employment in Canada. While some regions are more active than others, we are seeing in many cities and provinces the lowest unemployment recorded in over 40 years! Canada created over 422,000 jobs last year, the best year since 2002, and many are full time. Quebec is at a record low 4.9%, plus Ontario and the West are also performing.

2018 is Looking Great for Jobs in Canada... What Does That Mean for Employers?Further economic indicators point to and back up this booming jobs market as wages have begun to creep up, a sure sign of a tight labour market. The Bank of Canada increased its rate a quarter point early this month, the 3rd increase since last July. The US economy looks to be also firing on all cylinders with recent massive tax changes which will only serve to increase the Canadian export economy provided a certain “very stable genius” doesn’t cancel NAFTA.

Here at Eagle, we are undoubtedly experiencing the effects of such a market in seeing a shortage of available candidates, candidates receiving multiple offers and down time between assignments being very short or non-existent. The ACSESS Staffing Index, a measure of billing hours in Canada among temporary labour, bears this out as it hits some of its highest levels in years. We also know that the “Technology” unemployment rate in Canada is likely less than half the nominal rate, likely in or around 2%.

Recent conversations with both the Federal Government and Ontario government suggest a looming crisis in attracting the next generation of technology professionals so desperately needed as their workforce ages out.

So what can clients, companies and governments do to thrive in a very tight job market? Here are a few suggestions meant to help navigate successfully to get the right people at the right time.

  • Review your hiring processes to be sure they are tight and efficient. Accelerate your hiring process where you can. Candidates with multiple offers — the “A” candidates — will not be available through an extended interview or hiring process in this market.
  • Hiring Managers need to review expectations. Many skills will not see multiple candidates to assess and therefore be sure you prioritize your “must have criteria” as the days of a candidate having 10 out of 10 requirements may no longer be realistic.
  • Work with your agency partners. Ensure a good and accelerated feedback loop exists, be proactive with your staffing partners on upcoming needs, be nimble on offers, and review competitive rates and salaries with your agency partners and others in the market to be sure your expectations align.
  • Make sure you understand your value proposition as a company to attract “A”candidates and articulate it to your partners so that we can help you. Know your organization’s “sizzle and its steak “. Understand your market, your comp structures and skills availabilities in your market and engage your staffing partners to fill in the gaps
  • It’s not the time to “overplay” your hiring hand. The market has changed and being slow to the market will not reward you. Be flexible. You will need valued partners because all but a very, very few elite companies will need help since the days of advertising an opening and sitting back to see what comes are gone

There will always be other ongoing events to stay abreast of, for example Toronto recently making the “shortlist” for the new Amazon HQ, (a move Apple no doubt is now likely to repeat). Although chances are slim they ultimately win, imagine if they did. It would present a huge game changer and competition for not only all of Toronto’s employers but many in Canada as well!

Organizations can still get the “A” candidates if they take to heart some of these and other suggestions and adapt to the marketplace. If not, it’s going to be costly with C and D level candidates.

Contractor Quick Poll: Hearing from recruiters?

How do you prefer to get job opportunities from recruiters?

A couple years ago, we asked Eagle’s recruiters about their preferred method to be contacted by IT contractors and passed it on to help our readers understand the most successful ways to build a relationship with a recruiter. Not surprisingly, we learned that everybody has different preferences for being contacted, based on their time management and organization processes.

This month, we’re curious to learn more about technology independent contractors and how they prefer to be contacted by recruiters at staffing agencies regarding new opportunities. What’s your preference in most cases? Do you like to hear a voice so you can ask questions immediately? Would you rather an email with the details or a text with a brief overview? Do you like to be contacted on LinkedIn? Or would you prefer to do your own searching and reach out to the recruiter when you find something that interests you?

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!

Why Share Your Compensation History with a Recruiter?

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
National Delivery Manager at Eagle

Should You Share Your Compensation History with a Recruiter?I came across an article recently that was quite interesting to me personally, and it certainly seemed to be a contentious topic with 488 comments, 6200 likes and 1364 forwards in a few short weeks.  Apparently, (and previously unbeknownst to me), Massachusetts recently passed a new bill preventing employers from requiring salary histories from job applicants.

As a recruiter with 20 years of experience, most of that in permanent placement (in both retained and contingent firms) I found the commentary very interesting.  Most who commented very passionately agreed that recruiters had no right to ask for compensation history, and felt that the ask was ‘unethical’ and a means to get a candidate to the lowest salary possible.

It is very rare that I have had a candidate flat out refuse to share their compensation information with me, but it has happened on occasion.  It always makes me very reluctant to represent them as I find it difficult to effectively negotiate on their behalf, and it often leads me to wonder whether they are looking for a substantial increase over their current compensation that may be outside of the norm.

I always explain to candidates that the initial compensation conversation is between us, and how I choose to position that to an employer can and will be discussed and agreed upon with their input.  As much as I’m unwilling to just throw out an employer’s ‘range’, I’m as unwilling to invest the time in representing someone to a client without having a full understanding of their motivation, expectations, and employment history (including compensation).

It is not unrealistic to expect a substantial increase in some cases and if it is justified, particularly if there are extenuating circumstances like relocation, being long tenured within one organization, niche areas of expertise, an imminent increase or bonus, or just being a passive job seeker who is completely content where they currently are.  If someone’s expectations are beyond what would be considered standard, I can justify that to an employer if I have a full understanding of all considerations involved.

Obviously, it’s important for a recruiter to understand that your expectations are in line with an employer’s range before time is invested on all sides, but should the history of what you have earned be a factor of consideration?  Or should the market rates, your experience and the employers range be the only criteria?  I welcome your thoughts/input below.

Liar, Liar…

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

Liar Liar

Shocking news — people lie!

There are many, many sources on the web showing how prodigiously people fib on their resumes and social profiles.  One such article suggests that over half of resumes and job applications contain falsehoods.  Misrepresentations can range from job titles and dates of employment to out-right lying about where one has worked and the education that they have… and everything in between.

In a slower economy, where there are more applicants than jobs, staffing agencies have witnessed a greater “stretching of the truth” by some independent contractors.  For example, something that our company has been calling “resume blurring” becomes much more common.  This is less of an outright lie, but more of a stretching of the truth.  Resume blurring comes into play when people re-write their resumes to broaden the types of roles for which they might be a fit.  For example, an IT contractor who has been a Project Manager might now have a resume that appears that they’ve got a lot more Business Analysis experience than they really do, or vice versa.  As the two roles work so closely hand-in-hand, it is often difficult for clients and employers to weed out the candidates that kind of know the job versus the ones that have actually been doing the job and are experts at it.

Other times the deceptions are even more blatant.  We have seen instances where contractors actually “buy” resumes and other people take phone interviews for them to win them the job.  We’ve even had someone complete a skype interview for another person!  (That’s a harder one to pull off)  Regardless of what the falsifications are, it comes down to the fact that there needs to be a much deeper level of due diligence completed by recruiters.  Honest contractors deserve a fair shake and the only way this is going to happen is through deeper background and reference vetting.

Again, when the economy offers fewer jobs than there are qualified applicants, companies often feel that they don’t need the services of employment agencies as they can gather more than enough resumes on their own.  But given the propensity of some people to embellish or outright lie on resumes/applications, this is the time when they really need a good staffing agency partner the most.  At Eagle, over our 20 years in business, we have come to know a large percentage of the independent contractors in the market. We’ve tracked their careers and we have relationships with many that span years.  We know these technology professionals, we know what they do and have done, we know that they are the “real deal” and we share this information with our clients.  And for contractors that are new to us, we complete a series of interviews, background vetting and reference checks before sharing their information with our clients; in this way, we get to know them and ensure they are what they claim to be.

For the reasons listed in the paragraph above, honest and professional contractors should make it a point to build strong relationships with their recruiter partners as we can be the voice of reason helping you to compete with the desperate people (or outright charlatans) in the market.

Have you witnessed any new or innovative ways that some people try to fool their way into jobs?  I encourage you to share your stories below!

 

 

Even the Best Recruiters Aren’t Always Technical

How to Deal with Recruiters Who Have No Clue What They’re Talking About

How to Deal with Recruiters Who Have No Clue What They're Talking AboutGreat recruiters at staffing agencies are pretty awesome. They find opportunities that fit your skillset, coach you through the application process and can provide helpful knowledge about a client to increase your odds of winning a contract. As great as they are, though, they sometimes won’t know or understand every detail of the role for which they’re interviewing you, nor will they be completely versed in your technology. After all, if they were that capable, they’d be applying to same positions as you! Even when interviewing with a client, you may end up in a situation where the hiring manager doesn’t know exactly what they’re talking about. As former Ford executive Lee Iacocca once said, “I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.”

Independent contractors need to be prepared for these situations. Interviewers without proficient understanding of your role may ask questions that don’t make sense or use improper terminology, but you need to refrain from being discouraged or rude. Instead, when you recognize you’re meeting with somebody lacking technical knowledge, take a step back and consider some of these tips:

  • Figure out what they’re looking for. Depending on the stage they’re at in the recruiting process, recruiters may not even care too much about your technical knowledge. Especially in your first meeting with a new employment agency, the goal may simply be to determine if you’re an ethical independent contractor and to understand how you would fit in with their clients.
  • Focus on what’s happening in the moment. As already mentioned, don’t let yourself get discouraged about an interviewer who doesn’t seem to know what they’re talking about. Stay in the moment and put 100% of your attention into the questions they are asking. (see the previous point)
  • Tell good stories and brag about yourself. Even though the interviewer may not understand everything you tell them, continue to take the opportunity to talk about your experience and outline your accomplishments. Your goal here is not only to demonstrate your range of knowledge, but also let the recruiter see the enthusiasm you have for your job.
  • Don’t overdo the bragging. While you do need to demonstrate your expertise and experience, over-explaining experience using complex terminology to somebody you know doesn’t understand is going to make you appear as arrogant, not helpful. Know where to draw the line and when to stop.
  • Volunteer some information. Again, without coming across as arrogant, feel free to add new details to the interview. As a technology professional, you’ve been to many interviews for IT roles and know the common questions. If something hasn’t been asked, weave it into your answer or volunteer it at the end of your job interview. You can also include it in your follow-up email.
  • Help them learn. Like every good professional, your recruiter wants to learn and get better their job. This is a fantastic opportunity for an independent contractor to add value and build a relationship within a staffing agency. During the interview, provide them with a little bit more knowledge that will help them with future interviews. This could be explaining a technology in a bit more depth or just passing on a resource where they can seek more information in their own time.

There is no arguing that a recruiter, hiring manager, or whoever else is interviewing you for a specific contract, better have a solid understanding of the project and specific tasks that will be required of you. There is not, however, a need for them to know the ins and outs of your role — that’s why they’re seeking the subject matter expertise of an independent contractor.

Have you been interviewed by a recruiter who wasn’t sure what they were talking about? How did you handle it? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Quick Poll Results: Recruiter Relationships

How Many Staffing Agencies Do You Keep a Good Relationship With at All Times?

The results are in! Last month’s contractor quick poll asked independent contractors about their relationships with staffing agencies. As we discuss multiple times in the Talent Development Centre, you should always work with a few different companies who you trust, so we wanted to know specifically, how many you keep a relationship with at any given time.

As you see in the chart below, most independent contractors have 5 or less favourite recruitment agencies. So, where do you fall compared to the average contractor? Should you start calling a few more IT recruiters? Can you afford to sever ties with a couple of your least favourite ones?

Quick Poll Results: How many staffing agencies do you keep a relationship with?