Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: staffing agencies

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

3 Reasons Clients Prefer to Hire You through an Agency

We are sometimes given a hard time by independent contractors who feel that agencies “take money out of their pockets” or are making money off their backs, bringing little value to them.  There are countless benefits that contractors get when working with staffing agencies, but perhaps the single biggest benefit is access to jobs that are not available otherwise.

The fact is that most (almost all) large companies in Canada will avoid direct contractual People Working Togetherrelationships with independent contractors. Thus, in order to work at those companies, the independents need to contract through one of the agencies on the preferred supplier list.

There are two primary reasons companies choose this route: Cost and Risk. Plus a third factor not as important, but still relevant: Hassle!

1. COST.

Agencies can supply contractors cheaper than companies can get them themselves. Generally, agencies have large databases and existing networks so spend less time finding the right people and can provide more options.  Companies also tend to have less negotiating power when contracting directly with independent contractors and are in a better position to “squeeze” their suppliers.  Finally, when working with an agency, the client saves administratively.  This is especially true for clients who may have many contracted resources. Instead of creating hundreds of contracts and hundreds of payments each month, the client has only one contract with a few agencies and pays one cheque (with long payment terms).

2. RISK.

The big risk to clients is for an independent contractor to be deemed an employee. Agencies manage this risk for them, create a degree of separation contractually and create a difference between how contractors are treated and how the client’s own employees are treated. As we’ve mentioned in past posts, there are significant implications to both the client and the independent contractor if an employee/employer relationship is deemed to exist.


Clients use contractors for lots of reasons but a primary one is the access to flexible labour, with minimum commitment. By employing an agency to manage the relationship, the client is freed of many “hassles” (hiring and firing, payment, management issues, personal issues etc.) If there is an issue, they tell the agency, who then deals with it.

The benefits to clients working through agencies are compelling and, therefore, the only way to gain access to contract jobs with those companies is often through their supplier agencies.

How to Get Selected for a Contract Opportunity

From time-to-time, we are contacted by disappointed contractors. They apply for several opportunities with our clients and despite their obvious talents, are not being called for any of these roles. The “obvious” conclusion is that something must be broken in Eagle’s recruiting process if we can’t identify them as a great candidate for the roles to which they are applying.

The reality is the staffing industry is a high-paced, ultra-competitive world. It is critical to find great contractors who meet our clients’ needs and to do that, we need to be fast, provide good quality candidates and do so in a very cost effective manner.

There could be any number of reasons why a candidate does not get called for an order, but here are just a few of them:Recruiter with many resumes to review

  1. The client identifies a candidate even before the opportunity has finished its cycle. This means that it is possible some opportunities are posted to the internet and the opportunities has already been filled. Administratively it can take a little time to catch up to these, but obviously we are not going to be calling more candidates.
  2. We identify a candidate(s) that we know very early in the process meaning that we will not be calling more candidates.
  3. We identify candidates that we have not worked with previously, however, we have interviewed them and reference checked them. These are steps we need to complete before presenting candidates to our clients and, therefore, pre-screened candidates will always be given preference to those we have not met.
  4. We identify many candidates for an opportunity and don’t need to call more.

In addition to these very common situations, sometimes candidates don’t help their own cause:

  1. Some candidates will apply to lots of different opportunities, with different skills. Rightly or wrongly this can give an impression that they are just desperate for their next contract and will likely not be qualified.
  2. Some candidates will “harass” the recruiters about opportunities which impedes their ability to do their jobs. Those people will not rise to the top when new opportunities come in.
  3. Some candidates have resumes that do not adequately describe their experience and capabilities. A poor resume is really going to hurt a contractor.
  4. Sometimes resumes and covering emails/letter just don’t ring true. When you look at hundreds of resumes a day and something doesn’t look right then it is quickly discounted.

Recruiters are always going to work with people that they are most comfortable with. That will start with people they know well, through people they have developed a rapport with, to people that come with good referrals and finally to people who have outstanding credentials that show well.

We always suggest to professional contractors that they find a few good agencies/recruiters and develop a relationship with them. It doesn’t take much. Communicate and let them know who you are and what you are looking for. Be responsive to interviews and references and keep in touch. It is not too hard and it will increase your chance of success!

What experiences do you have working with agencies?  Do you have any specific feedback about working with Eagle?  We’d love to hear it.  Please add your comments below.

Contractor Ethics

As you may already be aware, Eagle’s “Eagle Elite” program is a certification recognizing outstanding contractors who fully complete their contracts, receive glowing reviews from the client and, above all else, follow a Contractor Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics is a simple set of guidelines and we refrain from working with any contractor who doesn’t adhere to them.

It would be great if there were no need to have these guidelines. In fact, some of the best contractors we know are a little taken aback that we would ask them to agree to a Code of Ethics. It’s only when we share stories of the poor behaviour of “the few” contractors that Comic with a bad contractortarnish the industry that they gain a better understanding and most are keen to let the world know of their professionalism.

It is interesting to see some of the antics of some contractors. We have had people go through the entire process, from interviews to rate negotiations.  They are happy to have been awarded the contract until they find out the person next to them earns a dollar more! What must a client think when a highly paid professional who has made a contractual commitment starts complaining about their pay just days into a contract! (TIP: The time for rate discussions is up front, once it’s done get on with the contract!)

A hot market can bring out the worst in people. We have seen people with long-term contractual commitments, who are key resources on projects, hold their clients to ransom because they suddenly decide that if they move they can get more money. Yes, they can get more money, but a negative reputation follows and is one that our industry inherits!

It is fortunately a very small minority who act in this manner and the vast majority of contractors do operate ethically. They are business people and act that way.  Our clients love to work with these contractors and we look forward to adding more of these contractors to the Eagle Elite.

Have you witnessed unethical behavior from other contractors?  What about from agencies? Share your experiences below!

Cut Out the Clutter — Go Back to Basics!

Gilbert Boileau By Gilbert Boileau,
Vice-Président, Québec at Eagle

I just got 5 emails, 8 InMails, 3 phone calls and 1 SMS from different IT Staffing firms for 3 different consulting engagements at Bank ABC, all between 8:30 and 9:30 this morning. WhoContractor receiving many phone calls do I call back? The first one who sent me an email, the first voice message or the last one?  I know two of those recruiters very well, Peter and Rob.  Should I call Peter first?

If this sounds like a typical event in one of your typical days as an IT consultant, then you may consider going back to your basics.  What does this mean?

The IT staffing landscape has changed considerably since the Y2K era (don’t tell me you don’t remember those good old times!!)  As Jeremy Mason mentioned last week, most big organizations with large IT contracting needs go through an internally or externally Managed Vendor Program.  This means one point of contact for the entire IT organization.  As he also pointed out, this process can raise your risk of dual representation which is not good for you.  But you should also know that, for some clients, being represented at the same client by 5 staffing companies on 5 different job requests in the same week is not very good for you either.  Depending on which staffing firms you are dealing with, it could mean 5 different bill rates, 5 different profiles and a very confused end client!

How can you minimize this issue? By going back to basics and working with only your preferred staffing firms.  The best measure for determining the best firm fit should rest on how you feel about its recruiters, its ethics and the way they represent you in this new “tighter” consulting ecosystem.  Good recruiters will care, follow-up, abide by strong ethics and look at the short and the long term.  It is worth your while to get to know them and to speak with them frequently because they may have different clients and more options for you.  Take the time to meet them and ask about their values and how they view their relationships with their clients and their contractors. Then discard the ones who are just providing you with a short term opportunity.  Because short term is just what it is — short term.

So, look for the fundamentals.  They are still your best guide today and for the years to come!

How many staffing companies do you currently work with?  Have you run into any confusing situations while juggling multiple companies?  Share your experiences below!

Inside Advice from a Staffing Agency

Recruiters often get engaged in discussions with professionals new to the independent contracting space and looking for advice about how to get started.  Many of them observe that getting the attention of agencies is tough and some believe that the whole concept of good and basic manners has been thrown out by some in this business.

They are, of course, right about getting the attention of an agency and, while we won’t make excuses for poor behavior in our industry, we can try to give some insight into why this is the case.

Business partners shaking handsThink of the agencies as your clients and you are selling us on your qualifications and candidacy for a job with our clients. It is important whenever you are selling anything to understand, as much as possible, what it is like to walk in the shoes of the person you are selling to. The more you can understand about their pain, their needs, and their wishes, then the better chance you have of aligning your product/service to the opportunity.

So, what is it like inside an agency? We get literally thousands of resumes every month but only tens of opportunities in a good month. So a very small percentage of people who apply to any agency will actually get a job, and the agencies get more jobs than most employers.

Furthermore, the recruiters within agencies will always work with those people that they are most comfortable submitting. They likely won’t (shouldn’t) submit someone that they haven’t met.

Now don’t get discouraged that’s the tough side of the equation.

So breaking it down, you need to get noticed. Then you need to get an interview with the agency. Then you need to be top of mind for a current opportunity that is a good fit for you.

Recruiters, like most people, love it when people make life easy for them. So if you can let them know that (1) Opportunity A looks like a great fit for these 3 or 4 good reasons, and (2) by the way, they know you and (3) you gave them your reference information and (4) if needed you can customize your resume (truthfully not embellishment) to fit the position, then you will probably get a call.

In summary, how can you get the attention of an agency?

  • Step one:  get noticed.
  • Step two: get an interview. Understand how the recruiter wants to keep in contact (text, email, voice etc).
  • Step three: work to get those roles.
  • Step four: maintain the relationship for the future.

Recruiters are inherently very busy people who tend to go from one “fire” to the next so set your expectations of contact low. If every one of the several thousand applicants who sent in resumes each month called, then the recruiters wouldn’t get much done. Text messaging is a growing trend in recruitment, short concise emails are good and phone contact when there are real opportunities to talk about are three viable communication options.

Do you have “insider tips” that have helped you in your agency relationships?  Let us know in the comments below.

Is Your Staffing Company Involved in its Industry?

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

The temporary labour/contract staffing industry has several industry associations.  They range from general staffing associations such as ACSESS (Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services) to associations based on a more specific subset of the overall industry like the NACCB (National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses).  As a basic foundation, these organizations represent the interests of the companies that comprise the industry and they set guidelines for industry best practices, business ethics and they will interface with other organizations (such as the Canadian Federal and Provincial governments) to ensure the market for human resources remains open for member organizations, Canadian businesses and workers (temporary or otherwise) alike.

NACCB and ACSESS logosNot all staffing companies belong to industry organizations and even fewer take an active role.  Why would this be important to incorporated contractors, sole proprietors and temporary workers?  Why should you care?

Well, I’m glad you asked!

By working with or through a staffing company that is directly and actively involved in Industry Associations, there are the following benefits:

  • They agree to operate to a higher standard – Industry Associations are quite prescriptive in how they expect companies to behave.  By becoming a member, staffing companies agree to a strict set of guidelines, standards and business ethics.
  • They are open to new ideas and are committed to improving their capability and services over time.  Industry Associations provide professional training and business development courses for their membership.  They work together to stay on the forefront of new trends so that they (and the contractor partners that they represent) remain relevant in the changing market.
  • They influence Canada’s employment rules and business environment through their work with government departments and committees.  They take part in business conferences and influence educational programming by providing relevant market data points for colleges and universities.  Through member companies, your collective voices are heard by organizations and institutions that matter.
  • They are up on the changing legal landscape.  Things like Deemed Co-Employment and Personal Services Businesses that directly impact the contractor community are better understood and, through sheer force of numbers, their messages are heard by policy makers.  Industry Associations are currently lobbying the government, seeking clarity for contract workers with respect to PSB policy.  Through clarity, Canada’s contract workforce will be able to make adjustments to reduce risk.  Industry Associations are taking the lead in this process to benefit all contractors.

Eagle takes our corporate citizenship very seriously.  We have been and continue to be extremely active contributors to ACSESS (Eagle’s CEO is on the board and has been a past President) and the NACCB (Eagle’s President is also the current President of the NACCB).  In addition, our President is a founding member of the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills (CCICT) and Eagle’s Vice-President of Government Services sits on the Informatics Professional Services Advisory Committee for the Federal Government.  Our company is also a member of a variety of industry organizations including the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).  Because we know the importance of all of these organizations, we take every opportunity to educate the market as to their value and we encourage the participation of our peers.  In return, this promotes the standards and ethics in our industry and has positive effects on independent contractors across the country.

How much priority do you place on your agency’s industry involvement?  Do you think that you might consider it more often when choosing your agency?  Tell us why or why not, we’d love to get your opinion!

Why Recruiters Like Cover Letters

While there are many mixed opinions about the cover letter from both recruiters and job seekers from claims that it’s no longer relevant to others convinced that it is an important tool for recruiters when evaluating candidates, and yet others argue that it depends on the situation.

So what are the pros to providing a cover letter?

A well-known rule in sales is that you MUST make it easy for the buyer to buy; do as much Sending a cover letterof their work for them as possible and you have done your job.  If you think in those terms, then that is what a cover letter should do.  When you submit a cover letter to a recruiter at a staffing agency or any other company for that matter, assuming your have put some effort into customizing your letter, you make it easy for them to understand why you’re the right candidate.

If you are an experienced consultant in the IT space, your resume is probably quite long, listing many different projects and roles over a number of years.  A recruiter looks at hundreds of resumes every day, scanning them to find key skills.  To read through a detailed resume would take added time from an already busy schedule so why not catch their interests with the relevant skills and experience in your cover letter?  Convince them that they need to take the time to read your resume!

There is an obvious parallel between a cover letter from contractor and the information submitted to a client. A cover letter definitely helps with the client submission.  How? When a recruiter at a staffing agency submits a contractor’s resume to a client for review, a brief summary about the contractor explaining why they’re the best person for the role is included.  If you submitted a cover letter with your application, this is the first place that a recruiter will look to develop the summary.  In providing the cover letter, you are ensuring that all of the relevant skills are highlighted instead of hoping that a recruiter will figure it out.

Bring your application to the top of the pile by including a cover letter!

Do you include a cover letter with every application? Has this helped you secure work? We’d love to hear from you.  Leave us your thoughts below!

5 Techniques to Write Your Best Resume Ever!

Jennifer Farrell By Jennifer Farrell,
Proposal Team Lead at Eagle

Let’s be real, it’s easy to find resume templates.  It’s simple to locate profile header generators and programs that automate resume content.  While it might be tempting to use these tools to craft your resume, staffing agencies aren’t looking for catchy buzz words and superficial jargon. What we are looking for is an authentic version of you – on paper.

  1. Start off with Personal Contact Details.

It is surprising how many people submit their resume without their basic contact information. In the header include your name, email address and phone number. In the footer, number your pages.

  1. Catchy Profiles generate Interest.

Write your profile in the 3rd person. Your sentences should be short and summarize the number of years of experience you have, along with your education and any formal training that is relevant. The key here is short sentences.  The recommendation for overall length is one or two small paragraphs maximum. Remember, the profile needs to highlight your unique experience at a very high level.

Example:  Mr. John Doe is a Senior Project Manager with over 20 years of experience managing high profile projects for the public and private sector.  He gained his PMP at the Project Management Institute (1994) and was ITIL Certified in 1999. Etc.

  1. Structure your Projects in Reverse.

Hiring manager reviewing resumesOrganize your projects in reverse.  As a contractor with multiple projects, this tip will make updating your resume easier.  Start with the most recent experience (at the beginning of your resume), and work your way backwards numbering your projects in reverse. For example, the first project from 1998 would be Project 1 and your most recent project (that just wrapped up in May 2014) would be Project 32.

  1. Include more detail than you think you should.

Key Words: Throw away the belief that your resume needs to be short and sweet. This is just simply not true. Your resume needs to be long and detailed.  When we upload your resume into our database and run a key word search, your resume will jump to the top of the list if you have enough of the key words we are looking for.

Technology Environments: Always include the technologies you used and dig deep to list them all. If you used MS Office Suite in your last Finance and Accounting position, include Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, etc. and list everything down to Windows 2008. This is the best way to get a lot of hits in our database.

Project Description: Give us lots of details. How many people were on the team? What was the overall project budget/value? What was the business need driving the project forward? What were the challenges? List the critical success factors.  Did you deliver the project on time? Was the project within budget?

Project Deliverables: What were your specific tasks? How did you contribute? What soft skills did you use? Were you responsible for more than you signed up for?  Was your contract extended? Try to answer the Journalism questions: Who? What? Where? Why? When? How?

  1. Education/Certification and Training – they all need dates too!

Close your resume with your professional qualifications and provide the dates you graduated along with the Institution. No need to provide the city and province unless your education was gained outside of Canada.  Include any specific and relevant courses completed.

These five techniques will help bring your resume from good to great, but they are by no means exhaustive. We’d love to hear from you – what do you include in your resume to bring it from good to great? Please leave us a comment below and share your expertise!

Does Your Recruiter Work with an Industry Association

Why Should You Work with a Staffing Company with Industry Association Membership?

Eagle is a strong proponent of participation in associations and memberships within our industry, and we believe that any good corporate citizen really should belong to industry associations.  So why is it important to a candidate, independent contractor or temporary employee to choose to work with an association member in lieu of a non-member?

  1. Serious companies recognize the need to support associations.  Working with a company that belongs to an industry association means that you are working with a company that is serious about their business.
  2. The association fights for the rights of the members, their employees and their contractors. A by-product of that effort is that they are fighting for the non-contributing companies too.  How fair does that sound?  If these companies are not fair to their industry association will they be fair to you?
  3. The members are kept abreast of the issues of the day. As an example, each month, the ACSESS Government Relations Report lists its current initiatives. The NACCB lobbying efforts are also continually focused on a couple of big issues.
  4. How do you know your company understands the rules applicable in the staffing industry if they aren’t involved in the associations that help to define it?  Anyone can “hang out a shingle” and sound credible, but the rules around deductions for temp versus sole-proprietor, or for independent contractors, can get interesting and change quickly.  Associations provide advice on these complex issues and support to their members on how these changes affect their business. The end result is added protection for you.
  5. Industry associations hold their members to a code of conduct and not all companies do! A code of conduct ensures that members remain ethical not only today while you’re working together, but well into the future.
  6. Industry associations will arbitrate and provide expert advice when issues arise.  It is easier if the companies involved are dealing with members.
  7. Industry associations provide ongoing guidance and education to ensure that their members are up-to-date on legislative requirements further ensuring the protection of those that work with them.

Here in Canada there are a couple of primary industry associations that represent the staffing industry:

  1. Association of Canadian Search, Employment & Staffing Services NACCB and ACSESS logos(ACSESS) is the largest, representing the industry in general.
  2. National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses (NACCB) is probably the next largest with a mandate of supporting those staffing companies in the IT space specifically.

There are also local associations.  For example, CabiNet is a local Ottawa-based organization focused primarily on companies supplying contract services to the Federal Government.

How do you know if they are a member of an industry association? Ask them! If they belong to one of the larger organizations mentioned above, visit the association website.  All the members are listed.

A Proposal Writer’s Perspective on Resume Blunders

Jennifer Farrell By Jennifer Farrell,
Proposal Team Lead at Eagle

Ask anyone in the staffing industry about the worst resume they’ve seen and you’ll find yourself listening to a very entertaining story about embedded personal pictures, lists of “interesting” hobbies, and the use of proprietary graphics. You’ll laugh right along with them until that awkward moment when they mention a technique you use on your own resume. Suddenly it’s not so funny.

Hiring manager explaining to applicant that his resume is terrible.With thousands of resumes pouring in every month, we really have seen it all. Following these techniques will guarantee your resume hits the “terrible” pile:

  1. Insert a table into your document.
    Put all of your experience into the table with multiple rows and cells. Then lock the table. This is a nightmare for staffing agencies because while we don’t change the content, we do reformat your resume using our own template so the client knows exactly where to look on every resume they receive from us. Imagine how much work goes into cutting and pasting all of the content from a table into a clean document. And of course, all the cutting and pasting means there is also plenty of opportunities to make mistakes.
  2. Overlap all of the months and years of your project experience. 
    Or, better yet, include the start date of each of your projects and choose a date that falls in the middle of the month (ex: June 15, 2010 to May 28, 2012). This is an excellent way to ensure you will receive personalized attention from Recruiters – we are guaranteed to call you back and ask you to remove all of the overlaps. Many of our clients have specific requirements so when we are proving to our client that you’ve been a Project Manager for 10 years, it’s hard when we have to try to count days instead of months. Government contractors know exactly what I’m talking about!
  3. Embed a personal picture or a graphic. 
    There really is no time throughout your career that this is a good idea. We don’t choose to interview people based on their appearance. When we look at your resume, we are interested in your skills, professional experience, education/training and certifications. All of the pictures and graphics that are used to carefully decorate your resume will get stripped out during the reformatting process if they have not already been stripped out by the system where you uploaded your resume.
  4. List all of your hobbies. 
    Especially the ones that have absolutely nothing to do with your professional experience. The key here is to ask: is this relevant to the role? If the answer is no then it’s better not to include them. Don’t get us wrong, we find your hobbies highly entertaining! 20 years ago when you were trying to get a job in a Pub and your favourite hobby was Beer Pong, it made sense to put it on your resume. However, at this stage of your career, your professional experience is what matters.
  5. PDF your resume. 
    While a PDF of your resume ensures that it does not get altered, it also causes headaches when agencies put the resume into their format (see number 1 above). If you are hesitant to provide a Word copy, keep one available and offer it up when you are serious about a particular job. Asking to review the formatted version before it is submitted to a client will ensure that no unauthorized changes have been made.
  6. Don’t include any detail, about your professional experience, at all. 
    This is my personal favourite. Without details it is impossible to figure out if you are a good fit for a contract. I know that we were all taught “resumes should not exceed one or two pages” but this was when we were teenagers looking for part-time jobs or new grads with no experience looking for our first job. This is even more important to the Independent Contractor. Clients want to know the details about all relevant experience.
  7. Copy/paste all of your experience into every single project you’ve ever had. 
    This is a big red flag for industry professionals. We see thousands of role descriptions in a year. We know that every role is different, as is every client, every environment, and every deliverable. Customization is key if you want your resume to stand out from the crowd. The more you write about the role and the project, from your own experience, the higher your chances your resume will be selected to move onto the next round of qualification.

What has your experience taught you? What other resume blunders should contractors avoid? Leave a comment!