Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: tips

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian IT Contractors relating to tips.

9 Tips Every IT Contractor and Job Seeker Must Read Before Sending Email from a Phone

9 Tips Every IT Contractor and Job Seeker Must Read Before Sending Email from a PhoneMany IT contractors always keep their smart phone attached to them because the plethora of apps mean they can always be connected to family, friends and work. Among the many apps that keep you connected to work, email is arguably the most important but can also have the greatest failures.

In many ways, email etiquette when sending from your phone is the exact same as when sending from a computer. For example, you will always need to review the tone, use Reply All sparingly or know when it’s better to pick up the phone. However, there are also some distinct differences. Here are a few tips for anyone — IT contractors, job seekers, managers –to consider before sending an email from your phone.

  1. Get to know your email app. There are several mobile email apps available. Whether you’re using the native one to your phone or you have another you prefer, get to know it and ensure the settings are configured. How does your name display when you send an email? Is your signature block set-up (and do you want that “Sent from my mobile device” line)? Do you know all of the tools and how to properly format with bullet points and numbering when sending an email? Failing to review these early will result in unprofessional-looking emails.
  2. Keep them short. Sending emails from a phone is more time consuming compared to sending from a computer where you have a full-size keyboard. There’s also a higher margin for error. To save yourself time and embarrassment, keep the emails on your phone short. If it needs to be longer, jot down a few points in a draft and complete the email when you’re back at a computer.
  3. Don’t Be Too Short. Yes, it’s best to keep mobile emails succinct, but that doesn’t mean you can be lazy. Continue to have a quality subject line and include proper greetings and sign-offs. As well, keep in mind that an email from your phone is NOT a text message. There is no place for emoticons and typical cell phone short-hand. Finally, use subject-only emails sparingly. The email with no body and just a subject that says “Please send Susan that process document” may be efficient for you, but can be perceived negatively by your recipients.
  4. Avoid Long Blocks of Text. Another common flaw that appears in phone-generated emails is the massive brick of text, clearly written by somebody too lazy to hit the enter button. As noted in Tip #1, get to know your app so you can use bullets and line spacing to organize your email in the same way you would from a computer.
  5. Double-Check More Than Usual. While checking spelling is a given because of the nature of writing on a small keyboard and the jokes autocorrect sometimes plays, it’s also prudent to take a second look at the recipient you selected and the email account from which you’re sending.
  6. Have a Plan for Attachments. Do you have a way to access all of the attachments you may need to include in an email? If you did manage to load the files onto your phone, uploading them to emails uses data. Instead, keep files on a cloud account (iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc) that you can access from your phone and only send a link to those files.
  7. Be Careful of Emotions. At this point in your career, you know not to send an email when you’re in an emotional state (ie. Angry) because it’s too easy to write something you’ll regret. Your phone being so readily available will make it even more tempting and easy to send that email… don’t fall into the trap!
  8. Check Your Surroundings. It goes without saying that you should never write an email while driving. It’s also wise and courteous not to start firing off emails while socializing or meeting with other people. Not only is it rude, but the distractions almost guarantee mistakes will happen.
  9. Decide if It’s Necessary. Consider both the urgency and length of your response. If it can wait a few hours or you need to write specific details with attachments not currently available, then wait until you’re back at your desk where you can do it properly. Worst case, send a quick reply confirming you received the email, provide a brief answer, and let the sender know you’ll respond in more detail later.

Certainly you’ve been on both the sending and receiving end of a mobile email. If you’re like many others, you have mixed emotions about them too. How often do you send emails from your phone? Do you have any stories of mobile emails gone wrong? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

New Resume Tips for IT Contractors

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

Some Lesser-Known Resume Tips

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

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

Flip-Flopping on the Objective Statement

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

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

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

A Winning Resume-Writing Formula from Amazon

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

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

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

Do These 5 Things Before You Even Apply to Your Next IT Contract

If your job search strategy consists of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks… and very little is sticking, then it’s time to re-vamp your way of thinking. Applying to multiple jobs with little thought or preparation is not just aggravating to recruiters but you’re wasting your own time as well. Rather than taking an “Apply and Pray” approach to finding your next gig, take a step back and review these five items Dice suggests an IT professional should do before applying to their next freelance opportunity:

Build Up an Online Reputation

Believe it or not, Recruiters have access to the Internet. And they know how to use it. Yes, an Internet-based job like a Web Designer should have a portfolio, but those seeking offline jobs also need an online presence. Recruiters always look beyond a resume to learn what others think of you and if it matches what you say in your resume. When you consciously build up your online reputation, you control the narrative!

Create a List of Verifiable References

The keyword here is verifiable. IT contractors have a different challenge finding great references compared to those in permanent positions. You don’t have the luxury of a long-term relationship with a manager who will remain at their company for a number of years. Instead, your top references could be other contractors who move around and lack the fancy title. You’re also in an industry where the landscape changes fast, so that valuable reference from five years ago may not be able to speak to your skills on a newer technology. When you build a relationship with a credible professional, add them to an on-going list of potential references. Organize that list based on experience and maintain it to keep it up-to-date with current contact information.

Make Sure Your Expectations Align with Reality

In this section, Dice suggests doing some homework to get a solid understanding of the workload, deadline structure and pay to ensure it matches your own needs. This may require a phone call to the recruiter working on the role, but your 5 minute discussion will be well worth your time compared to the hours you spend customizing your resume. Another piece of reality to align is whether or not you are the right fit for the job. In this article we found on The Muse, the author suggests you ask yourself not just if your skills match those requested, but also if your goals match the position and if the client’s culture and workspace fit with your ideal working conditions.

Research the Client

When you work through a recruiter, you have two clients — the staffing agency and the end client — and it’s wise to research both. First, always know what you’re up against before you start working with any recruiter. There are many criteria on which to evaluate an employment agency and how you weigh each one is your personal choice. What’s important is that you’re working with a recruiter you trust. Knowing the end-client is equally as important. For example, if they’re on the list of tech companies most likely to cause burnout or if they have a terrible reputation in how they treat independent contractors, then the higher rate may not be worth your pain.

Understand the Hiring Standards

Finally, Dice warns freelancers that they should not to assume that hiring standards are more relaxed for independent contractors versus full-time employees. A quick contract does not mean your recruiter or client will skip due diligence. Expect that they will conduct detailed reference checks, run background checks, and hold you under a magnifying glass before extending that final contract offer.

What kind of job seeker are you? Do you take similar steps before sending your resume (if so we’d love to hear them) or do you apply for everything that looks like it could be interesting (if so, we’d love to hear if it’s successful). Regardless, share your comments below!

The Most Effective Way to Apply to Jobs

A lot of effort goes into an effective job search. Searching for the best jobs, networking through companies and preparing resumes are all labour intensive and require significant amounts of time. Once you’re prepared, submitting the actual application is quick and easy; however, it should still receive as much attention as any other step. After all, you’ve done all that work, why waste it by being careless during a company’s online application process?

The simple action of applying to a job is not complicated but failing to pay attention to the details could cost you an interview. These simple items help you stand out when you submit a job application online:

  • Ensure you definitely qualify. Review that job description once more to guarantee that you meet the absolute must-haves of the job. This includes a willingness to work at the location. If you’re not willing to move and they want you in their city, then don’t bother applying.
  • Review the name of your resume file. Naming your resume “Resume.doc” is not very helpful to a recruiter looking at multiple files. At the minimum, include your name in the filename. It’s also wise to include your title and the date it was last modified.
  • Provide multiple contact options. As much as a good recruiter will always contact you in your preferred manner, there are always exceptions. Give them as many options as possible if they need to speak with you immediately — email, phone, cell phone (are you open to texting?), and LinkedIn are all helpful.
  • Complete all requested fields. Staffing agency job boards often ask for additional information to help keep their records up-to-date and match you with future opportunities. Even when it’s not mandatory, it’s a good practice to complete all fields. This helps you appear in future searches and recruiters will call you as job opportunities arise.
  • Avoid Creating Multiple Profiles. We see this happen often at Eagle. Candidates start using a new email address and end up creating a separate profile under their new address. The result is duplicate profiles in a database, which will cause confusion and you may miss out on future opportunities.
  • Save Information from Your Applications. Tracking all of your job applications means you can follow-up later and know the status of all jobs. Specific details you’ll want to reference when following-up with a recruiter include: Job Title, an ID number associated with the posting, the location, and the date it was posted.
  • Follow-Up… but be Realistic. Speaking of following-up, we always recommend it. If anything, it gets you in contact with a recruiter and helps you network. That said, be realistic about it. Following up hours after applying does not give a recruiter enough time to review all applicants and you will not get a good response. You should also avoid following up too frequently and keep in mind that it’s not worth arguing when you don’t receive a favourable answer.
  • Save and Return Later. Finally, there are going to be situations when you want to apply to a job but don’t have time to complete all of these suggestions. That’s OK. Save the job information and the application then return to complete the details at a more convenient time.

As the old saying goes “A job (application) worth doing is worth doing right.” The more you pay attention to detail and provide the right information, the easier you make the job of a recruiter, and the more likely you are to get that interview.

Constructively Accept Constructive Feedback

This may be a hard pill for some to swallow but believe it or not, you’re not perfect. That’s right, even YOU have some room to improve and by doing so you can advance your career as an IT contractor. The only way to get better at anything we do is to know our weaknesses and shortcomings and the best way to learn about them is to accept feedback.

As an independent contractor, feedback may come from clients, colleagues or recruiters at any time and for any reason. In addition to the obvious feedback you’ll get about your work while on a project, you may also hear from people regarding your general attitude, your interview skills, resume advice or something as simple as a more professional way to answer the phone.

Regardless of what kind of feedback you receive, who it’s from or why, it’s always beneficial to follow these tips and receive it effectively:

  1. Don’t get defensive, make excuses or justify yourself. At least at the onset of receiving feedback from somebody, take the time to hear them out and fully understand what they’re telling you. Doing so may lead to humility and self-awareness that can vastly improve who you are as a person in addition to the subject at hand.
  2. Practice active listening. Feedback is a common form of communication and, as such, “active listening” should absolutely be practiced. Be mindful of your body language to show you’re engaged, let them finish talking and ask questions to demonstrate that you do care about what is being said.
  3. Ensure you understand what’s being said. In addition to asking questions as suggested in the previous point, also summarize and clarify the feedback being given to you. This will ensure you both leave the conversation knowing exactly what improvements can be made.
  4. Ask for help whenever necessary. If you are struggling to understand how you can take their feedback and improve, then ask for guidance and suggestions. When people give feedback they should be genuinely interested in helping you and your project.
  5. Follow-up after implementing recommendations. Once you’ve taken the feedback into consideration and made changes to improve, check-in with the person who provided it with you to let them know the steps you took and to see if they’ve noticed an improvement. This will not only ensure your performance goes up, but it will demonstrate your appreciation for the feedback.
  6. It’s alright to ignore some feedback. Some people are nosey jerks who have no real constructive criticism or valuable advice to give. If you’re certain that is the scenario, feel free to ignore all or most of the previous tips. They may make some valid points which you should accept, but it’s not worth wasting too much energy on a negative person.

Any time somebody offers you feedback, remember that it’s often just as hard for them to give it as it is for you to receive it. Appreciate the situation and the confidence they may have had to build to give it to you. Regardless of whether or not you intend to act on feedback received, you should always remain polite and be thankful for the advice. After all, if you intend to provide feedback in the future, it will be received better by others if you can receive it well yourself.

Improve Your Job Interviews (even when they go horribly wrong)

Do you ever leave a job interview with that amazing feeling that everything went perfectly well and as planned? You’re confident that even if you don’t get the job, you left the absolutely best impression possible. Great! Now what about the interview that you bombed? Ya… those happen too. Here are a few ways you can improve your job interviews, even after they start to fall off the tracks in these all-too-common scenarios.

You Show Up Late

Life happens and sometimes extenuating circumstances lead you to be late for an interview. As a result, you suddenly get nervous, lose your momentum, and assume it’s all over before it even started. Before you throw everything away, consider these three great tips from Work It Daily:

  1. Don’t blow it off — you’ll only burn a bridge and make people angry
  2. Avoid begging for mercy, and ask forgiveness — apologize, but don’t go overboard or rhyme out excuses
  3. Shut down your inner negative Nancy — move forward and focus on what you rehearsed

They Ask the Dreaded Question About Getting Fired

Picture this — everything’s going amazing, you’re connecting with the interviewers and all of a sudden they ask that question: “Why did your last contract end so quickly?” This can be terrifying if it’s because the gig did not end well. Take a deep breath and consider these steps from FastCompany:

  1. Know the policy — review any agreements you may have with your former employer on what you can and can’t say (this one’s rarely applicable in the IT contracting world)
  2. Be honest — show you’re truthful and trustworthy, but also refrain from making yourself look bad (ex. “I was let go” sounds better than “I was fired”
  3. Avoid the blame game — this doesn’t look good on you, no matter how true it is
  4. Bring it back to fit — focus on the positive and how you’re still the best fit for this current position

To summarize all of this advice easily: “Stuff” happens. Suck it up, move on and stay positive.

When you let little things get into your head during an interview, everything will quickly go downhill as one little problem snowballs into a bigger one. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Remember to  plan for your interviews. Take into account what could go wrong and know ahead of time how you’ll deal with it. Good luck!

Check Out This Infographic Before You Lose Your Patience

People suck! Ok, not all people you work with are annoying, grumpy, Negative Nellies who make you want to explode, but they sure do seem to pop-up when you have the least patience. Unfortunately, it’s bad for business and your reputation to yell at people uncontrollably when they’re difficult, so you should have a few different strategies up your sleeve.

If you’ve been close to smashing your computer out of frustration, NetCredit has come to your rescue with this infographic for dealing with difficult people. It provides 9 helpful tips that will help you get through meetings, your workday, and even interviews with terrible recruiters. Do you have any creative tips you could add?

A Surgeon Teaches Us How to be Super Human

One of the top reasons clients hire independent contractors is because they’re the best in the field. When an organization needs something developed in a specific way, they find an expert IT contractor with a niche skill set. That contractor will not only deliver the solution most efficiently, they will also transfer knowledge and provide more in-depth knowledge to the client’s IT department. It’s safe to say, if you want to improve at any skills, it’s best to ask an expert and those with the most experience.

With that said, we can all learn something from doctors and surgeons. Before you get concerned that this post is advocating learning about medicine and performing surgery through a video, we’re referring to another skill that all successful medical professionals have proven to be experts at: productivity.

In this video, plastic surgeon Dr. Jay of Med School Insiders provides some of his own productivity and efficiency tips that have allowed to get through med school, continue a successful career and still balance a fun life. Watch the video to learn how you can maximize your time efficiency and start getting more done today!

Baby Boomers v.s. Millennials: How to Communicate and Overcome the Generation Gap

Breigh Radford By Breigh Radford,
Director, Human Resources at Eagle

How many times have you heard that the key to a good relationship is communication? Probably forever! But how well do you communicate with the different generations. Recently, I was told by a Baby Boomer (ages 54-72) that Millennials (ages 22-37) only know how to communicate through text. Shortly after, I was told by a Millennial that Baby Boomers are demanding and unappreciative. That got me thinking – they both have so much in common, but they don’t listen and tend to interpret the message into their own words.

Now, I belong to Generation X (ages 38-53) and lately I’ve been feeling a bit stuck in the middle of these two large demographic groups. It is exhausting being their mediator, so here are some tips you may want to consider:

Tips for Baby Boomers

  • Appreciate and take advantage of the energy and curiosity of a Millennial. They can likely do a task quicker via an app or a Google search. Try and get sucked into their energy and world, it could be fun!
  • Engage them! Millennials are more than an employee or an annoying team member, they want to feel that there is meaning in their life and job and be heard (so listen!). Instead of “Yes, but…” try “Yes, and…” – it is a sure way to show you are open to their ideas.

Tips for Millennials

  • Take advantage of the wisdom and experience the Baby Boomers have. They were young once and may give you a different perspective to consider.
  • Consider communicating to the Baby Boomer in their preferred method, not yours. Improve your influence factor by learning how to present to a different demographic in a way they understand. Use the original Facetime perhaps? Do your homework and when making a ‘pitch’ be professional, present all sides of the argument, and talk facts, not feelings.

Tips for All

  • Respect goes both ways. Be sure to ask questions, learn and never assume.
  • Clarify and confirm what you have discussed. For example:
    • “Just to clarify, you want me to begin the research project today and get back to you with an estimated completion date by tomorrow at the end of day?” OR
    • “Regarding our last meeting and discussion, I have thought further about working from home and I understand the policy as it relates to my role. I want to confirm that you are aware that I won’t be working in the office two days a week. I’ll start this program next Tuesday.”

Good communication always starts with a conversation, whether it be in person, phone, email or text. Either demographic can start the dialogue, but let’s start it and leave the Gen Xers out of it for a while.

The Latest Resume Tips and Trends for IT Contractors

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

Highlight Skills Above all Else

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

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

Links in Your Resume are Great, But Do Them Right

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

Wert also provided some extra tips for adding links correctly:

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

Take Extra Care in Proof-Reading

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

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

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

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