Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: staffing agencies

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

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?

Independent Contractor Rate Negotiation Mistakes

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

5 Errors IT Professionals Sometimes Make

5 Negotiation Mistakes Independent Contractors Sometimes MakeAs an independent contractor, you have the opportunity to interact with any number of recruiters in your local market or, if your skills are in demand, agents from all over the world. You probably find that it is not uncommon to have conversations with recruiters that you’ve never spoken to before, never mind worked with on a contract together. And more often than not, the initial conversation you are having with a complete stranger, involves a career decision with financial implications. Negotiations are difficult enough without having to enter into a rate discussion with a total stranger. Money is personal and the questions that are sometimes asked to establish parameters around rate can be uncomfortable. But rate is key to any contract discussion and you need to be prepared to enter into these discussions with Recruiters in an open and forthright manner.

Part of being prepared for these discussions is to understand myths surrounding staffing agencies and how to negotiate with them. The following are some common mistakes I’ve seen independent contractors make when negotiating with recruiters.

  1. More is better: Wrong! Trying to always increase your rate can affect your career negatively. I’ve seen candidates who play hard ball on rate and ignore the advice of the Recruiter end up pricing themselves out of the running due strictly to price. Professional recruiters will have client and market knowledge and apply that knowledge to price their candidates competitively. Every position is unique and market conditions can change rapidly (Hello Calgary!). Don’t forget as well that rate is a reflection of your seniority and professional standing. If you do manage to hit a home run and boost your rate, don’t forget that the client’s expectations can and most likely will be tied to the rate you negotiated. If you can’t deliver to those expectations, the results can be serious.
  2. I’m getting ripped off: There is no denying that contractors have developed a level of caution when dealing with Recruiters. Some recruiters in an effort to pad their commissions have unscrupulously negotiated with candidates with no concern for building mutual trust or delivering a quality service to the contractor community. I can say confidently that the staffing industry has matured and the level of professionalism has grown. But if you do find yourself with concerns about the Recruiter you are talking to, remember, you are not obligated to work with that person. If you want to perform a quick test, ask the recruiter what their philosophy around margin looks like and see if they are able to give you a satisfactory response. If the Recruiter is not comfortable disclosing this or mumbles their way through an explanation, maybe it’s time to end the conversation.
  3. They don’t need that information: If you are dealing with a Recruiter for the first time, they may be interested in what you have earned in previous contracts. The simple reason for this is to try and establish at what level you have been working and what your skillset has been paying in the market. Remember that if you exaggerate your numbers, you may be creating a set of perceptions around who and what you are and the Recruiter may make a decision that you aren’t a fit for the role they are working on. Again, a good recruiter will be able to offer you insight on the rate you have been earning and how it fits their client’s present needs. And a really good recruiter will identify when a market is ready to offer you a higher rate or conversely, when it is time to bring your number down to remain competitive.
  4. I’ll agree now but will secretly wait for a better offer: Once you’ve negotiated a rate and you have agreed to be represented by a particular recruiter that you feel comfortable with, DO NOT attempt to renegotiate days later after another Recruiter calls and offers $5/hr more. You’ve already entered into an agreement with one Recruiter who has likely submitted your resume to the client. Any Recruiter who tries to convince you to go with them for a bit more money is putting your candidacy for that role in jeopardy. Professional staffing firms and their clients want to work with contractors who exhibit honesty and integrity. Demonstrating that you are unable to commit to an agreement is a direct reflection on your business practices.
  5. Every situation is the same: Finally, as already mentioned, every situation is not the same. What one client is willing to pay for a specific skillset is not the same as another. And market conditions can change from one day to the next and impact rates. Listen carefully to the Recruiter and gauge what they are saying. Do they have a lot of knowledge of the position, the client, the market in which the contract exists and your skillset? Ask questions and if you don’t like the approach or the answers, it’s simple. Nothing is forcing you to work with that individual.

Have you made any mistakes while negotiating that you later regretted? Please share your experiences with our readers so we can all learn from each other.

Job Search: Why You Should Apply Through a Staffing Firm First

Guest Post By: Courtni Wisenbaker-Scheel of Modernize

Job Search Button on a KeyboardEntering the job market can be a daunting task under the best of circumstances, but if you have limited job experience or a more specialized resume, this can be even harder. On average, Canadians spend nine years in one position before moving on; so even if your resume is impressive, chances are your job hunting skills are a little rusty. This is where a staffing firm can step in and come to the rescue.

Your Agent, Your Advocate

For all intents and purposes, the staffing firm becomes your agent, an advocate who will work hard to find the perfect placement for you. Any creditable firm will take the time to meet with you to discuss your skill set, your career goals, and the specific job you are applying for. You can think of them as your job therapist, ready to help you get to the root of what you want and assist you in being the best applicant you can be.

Pre-Interview Rehearsal

When you have your interview with the recruiter, think of it as a rehearsal for when you interview with the company you hope to be a part of. Arrive professionally dressed and bring a clean copy of your resume. Also, be ready to answer interview-style questions about yourself and what you would bring to the position. This experience is a huge perk for you since it will give you confidence in your interview responses and soothe your nerves before heading into the big interview with the company itself.

Plus, when you have a conversation with the staffing firm, you are able to be far more candid than you would be in the actual interview. Since the hiring company is the staffing firm’s client, they are supplied with more extensive information about the position than is listed in a job posting. So if you have any reservations, such as potential poor management within the company or salary range, they will have the answers. Get as much information out of your staffing agent as you are able to so you can make a well-informed decision when the job offer is made.

Access to Unlisted Job Postings

Job Seeker or Recruiter with BinocularsAs noted on eagleonline.com, the IT industry is more challenging to enter in the current economic climate, but there are definitely still opportunities out there. By choosing to apply through a staffing firm, you also get access to job postings that are not listed publicly. The more you communicate your employment desires to your staffing agent, the higher likelihood of them presenting you with options you didn’t even know were possible.

Though you may not be an expert at navigating the hiring world, a staffing firm is. It’s their job to know exactly what skills should be highlighted and what personal experiences can get your resume noticed. When it comes down to it, applying through a staffing agency gives you the best chance to get the career you want in the quickest amount of time.

About Modernize

At Modernize, it’s our goal to offer the best resources to bring your home upgrades to life. We do this by providing quality educational content to inspire ideas, and by connecting you with our network of industry-leading contractors to get projects done. Home improvement is all about having the right tools, and we’ve got you covered.

The Importance of a Solid Contract

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

The Importance of a Solid ContractOne of the most common complaints I hear from contractors, especially those new to the world of being an independent contractor, is that contracts seem very complicated and onerous to review.  They also wonder why the contracts differ from agency to agency.  Many contractors in the past have told me they have started a contract with an agency/end client before reviewing or signing a contract!!  And worse… they have agreed to work at a client site based on an email exchange.

I often remind contractors that having a solid contract in place prior to starting any project is critical.  The contract protects both you, the independent, and the client from any potential legal issues that may later arise.  Most agencies have standard templates for contractors to review and sign off and these contracts are often drafted with client flow agreements in place.  Contracts will also vary depending on whether you’re Incorporated, a Sole Proprietor or part of a Partnership.  The contract is the basis for establishing the business relationship between the parties involved.

Key elements to a good contract agreement contain at least the following:

  • Start and end date to a contract;
  • Scope of services to be delivered;
  • Fees to be paid (ie. hourly, daily or on deliverables);
  • Payment terms (ie. monthly);
  • Payment process (ie. authorized time);
  • Confidentiality clause; and,
  • Termination clause.

Many client contract flow downs contain more robust information such as liability clauses, intellectual propriety rights, security clauses, non-compete and non-solicitation clauses.  Often these clauses can seem overzealous and off-putting, but a review by a lawyer can help alleviate and address any concerns.  At a minimum, all of these clauses should be taken seriously, and a contract that is lacking in the basics should cause the signer to beware.

Eagle has been involved in many instances where a client asked us to payroll a contractor from another agency.  As part of Eagle’s due diligence process, we review a contractor’s past contract.  We often find that some agencies have “treated” the contractor like an employee and have put them at risk of either co-employment with the agency or have failed to properly withhold proper taxes as in the case of sole proprietors.  Contractors should be wary of an agency or even an end client who “brushes” the importance of a sound contract aside.  Often, this is a tell-tale sign to potential issues to come (for example, having to chase down unpaid invoices).

On that topic, here is some advice to contractors when working with a new agency or client:

  • At the outset of the conversation, ask for a copy of the contract agreement so that you have plenty of time to review it prior to landing a new contract.
  • Take the opportunity to hire a lawyer to review the document if this is the first time dealing with the agency or the end client.  Even though a clause may look like the “standard” clause, often minor changes can make a huge difference in the intent of the clause (ie. replacing OR with AND).
  • Always keep a copy of your contract.

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask questions!  A reputable organization should have no problem clearly explaining the various clauses in their contract and the reasoning behind them.  If you have any hesitations, seek legal advice.

Contractor Quick Poll: Staffing Agencies

Aside from contract opportunities, what qualities of a staffing agency affect how likely you are to work with them?

IT contractors have a great deal of options when it comes to selecting an agency. At Eagle, we always encourage people to carefully evaluate all options and work with the company that best meets their needs. This month, we’re asking what your priorities are when choosing the agency that’s best for you.

5 Great Expectations for the Best Contractors!

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Disagreeing Business PeopleIt’s been my experience that most problems in business come from a misalignment in expectations.  And often that is because everyone involved in the equation “expects” the other to “intrinsically” understand and appreciate where the other party is coming from.  The relationship between a staffing agency and their potential candidates is often formulated on just a few conversations (over the phone?) with very little time being spent to understand the complexities behind the verbal assurances each person is about to commit to.  And while most would agree that what agencies do is certainly not rocket science, I’m here to tell you that it is a lot more complex than you could ever imagine. Here is some advice for you on how to ensure you make the best of that relationship by understanding some common expectations agencies have of great candidates:

  1. Do not treat the relationship with your agency casually.  Recruiters in the agencies you WANT to work with are looking for candidates who they can confidently present to their clients.  If you make casual promises you don’t keep (“sure I’ll send you an updated resume tonight”), you’ve immediately set the expectation that you don’t do what you say you will.  Agencies are risk adverse and the good ones want to work with fellow professionals.  So, show up on time for your meeting with the recruiter, dress professionally and treat the process as a chance to align expectations towards success.
  2. Do not misrepresent your skills.  It may be tempting to make a few “adjustments” to your resume in order to increase the likelihood of being considered for a role but think twice before doing so.  Most agencies have a database filled with resumes gathered through the years.  They may in fact have a file with all the information you’ve ever sent to that agent… even when you can’t remember doing so.  It is common practice for recruiters to compare resumes against other resumes on file or even on social media sites like LinkedIn.  You may believe you have very good reasons to make those changes but for the recruiter involved, it just looks dishonest.  If you are worried about your resume, ask your recruiter for advice.  More often than not, they will have the answer.
  3. Understand that the agency’s relationship with their client is sacred, and anything you do as a candidate, intentionally or accidentally, to jeopardize that relationship will be almost impossible to recover from.   So, before you agree to having your resume submitted, make sure you understand all you need to know about the agency’s client, the job and the steps involved to move you through the process to potential hire.  Do not make assumptions (“they probably won’t mind if I adjust my salary expectations during the interview”).  Commit yourself to acting as a consummate professional just like you would with any potential employer.  By taking the process lightly, you risk an unhappy client and an agent who might never wish to work with you again.
  4. Ask questions but don’t ask too many questions.  What??  It might seem counterintuitive after what I’ve just said but there is a balance.  Paralysis by analysis will make the recruiter think that you are not serious, or too cautious to move forward once a role is presented to you.  Remember that the recruiter’s job is to match you with opportunities that are “potentially” a good fit.  They can answer many of your questions regarding the role and client but the only real way to move the process forward is to talk to the client.  A good recruiter will prep you for your meeting with their client, give you good, basic information about the culture and should have a decent job description.  Beyond that, they may be able to provide you with more but if they can’t, don’t grind things to a halt.  Keep the process moving forward and it is highly probable that your most pressing questions will be answered at some stage.
  5. Finally, the transgression that gets everyone in trouble at one time or another…the fib.  We can all agree that sometimes telling the truth can make us awfully uncomfortable.  It’s just easier to tell a small fib and hope you are never found out.  But my experience tells me that for some reason associated with cosmic balance, those lies will come to light at the least expected moment and your credibility as a candidate will be called to question.  And even worse is when you don’t even know it has happened.  That your reputation has been burnt amongst a group of people you’ve never even met is the ultimate price to pay for what may have seemed a harmless act.  So don’t do it.  Don’t lie about your qualifications, about why you have to end your contract early (unfortunately common), about why you are no longer answering the recruiter’s calls, about why you didn’t attend a scheduled interview.   And if you don’t lie, guess what.  You can demand the same from your recruiter and the agency they work for.  And if you think they aren’t telling you the truth, then nobody can blame you for making the decision to no longer work with them.

Setting and understanding each other’s expectations goes a long way toward building a great relationship.  The points above are just a few behaviours we’ve learned we can expect from the best contractors at Eagle.  It’s just as important to make sure your agency knows what you expect from them. Share your expectations below!

An IT Contractor’s Career-Limiting Mistake

How to Destroy Your Personal Brand and Future Opportunities in 3 Minutes

Hour GlassAny recruiter who has been in the business for any length of time will have stories to tell about the strange and sometimes bizarre things that job applicants do. We obviously have had countless encounters over our 18 years at Eagle, but here’s one great example from last year.

A recruiter posts a new role on LinkedIn (amongst other places) and receives a number of applicants, some look to be worth talking to and some clearly not.  Our special applicant was in the clearly not camp, and the recruiter sends a polite note back to inform him that she doesn’t think he is a good fit for the role.  Here is the rather quick reply that she received:

“Kindly re read my résumé not for my candidacy towards the role, BUT instead for not doing your job accordingly, as I have the exact specifics and beyond requirements for your tiny role lmfao bahaha ok take care have a good day and get a lesson on human resources you either suffer from ADD or PTS disorder as my résumé is in clear plain English.”

The upside for us is that this person inadvertently conducted their own reference check and effectively screened themselves out of any role we might ever consider for them.   We would hesitate to put them in front of any of our clients.  The down side for them is that this now forms a part of their brand and they become a model of poor behaviour!

So a few thoughts on applying for jobs:

  1. Think about the consequences of your actions. Poor behaviour and inappropriate language will not help you, ever. When a recruiter emails you to let you know you’re not a fit for a contract, continue to communicate and build a relationship with them.  That way they’ll call you when an opportunity that suits you does arrive.
  2. If you are writing to a recruiter or a client, then it is always advisable to use good grammar and punctuation.  This person not only demonstrated poor judgment and a bad temper they also demonstrated an inability to string together a coherent sentence .
  3. When you a burn a bridge in the business world there is no knowing when it is going to come back to hurt you.

The contracting world is smaller than you may think. You never know what the consequences will be from your poor judgment, so think about your actions BEFORE you do something you regret!  Do you have any stories of somebody who ruined an opportunity with poor judgment?  Have you made the mistake yourself?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

How to Find the Agency that Works for You

As an independent contractor, you know the importance of a good interview. But when it comes to choosing an agency to represent you, would you be able to do as well sitting in the interviewer’s chair?

Having an agency represent you is wise on many fronts but perhaps the biggest advantage is that it allows you to concentrate on your current contract while someone else searches for your next one. Choosing the right agency or agencies is vital to the success of your career. How well they do their job will determine whether or not you even have a job to do.

A good placement firm will answer as many questions as it asks. But there is only one person who can ask those questions — you. Would you know what to ask? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Now that you understand my technical skills and what type of work I’m looking for, how will you find me a contract?Orange Man Detective
  • What suggestions can you make to enhance my resume?
  • Do you alter my resume to suit a particular position?
  • What do you think is an appropriate rate for my skills in today’s market?
  • What is your rate/percentage?
  • How do you get paid? Are you paid commission on my placement?
  • How will I get paid?
  • May I review your standard contract?
  • What systems do you have in place to support your process?
  • How many people in your organization will be actively seeking opportunities for me?
  • How much contact can I expect from your staff?
  • How many clients do you have? Are you on any preferred vendor lists?
  • Do you have access to positions in other cities in Canada, the U.S or internationally?
  • If you don’t find me something right away, how will you remember who I am?
  • If you find a contract that suits my skills, how will you contact me?
  • Will you present my resume without speaking to me first?
  • When will you check my references?
  • What else do you do for me as our relationship develops?

If you are not happy with the answers you get, move on. There is no understating the importance of choosing the correct agency to represent you. After all, it’s your career that’s on the line.  Do you have any questions you would add to the list?  Are there any red flags that make you immediately move on from an agency?  Share your experience with our readers!