How Weak Are Your Passwords?

“Passwords are like apples in a fictional garden” – that’s the opening phrase in this video from Seeker. In it, they explain the basics of how passwords work, different security strategies, and above all, how hackers understand all of this to break into your account.

We create passwords for everything — social networks, job boards, online stores, government websites, the list is endless. As such, you should regularly review your security processes to ensure you’re not being hacked. One simple slip can lead somebody to your banking and identification information, which could in turn complicate your life beyond belief. So, we strongly encourage you to review this video. If you’re an IT security expert, we’d love your suggestions as well! Please share any additional tips in the comments below.

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

Melissa Bryanton By Melissa Bryanton,
Proposal Manager at Eagle

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

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

What is a Grid/Matrix?

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

What Makes a Successful Matrix?

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

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

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

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

The Overall Secret to Completing a Skills Matrix

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

Why a Poor Offboarding Program Hurts Future IT Projects

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

Why a Poor Offboarding Program Hurts Future IT ProjectsIn my last blog post, I spoke about the importance of companies on-boarding contractors properly and what contractors can do to ensure they are part of the process.  Along with a great on-boarding program, companies must invest time in off-boarding contractors.  As mentioned before, independent contractors, like employees, can have a significant impact on a company’s culture and brand.  They can either be a great advocate for the company or be a negative voice out in the marketplace.  With social media sites such as Glassdoor growing in popularity as a reference point on whether to join a company, it is vital that companies take the chance to fully understand what the contractors work experience was like during their contract.

As a staffing agency, we have the opportunity to work with many clients and contractors.  After recruiters speak with contractors about a new job opening, the contractor often checks their LinkedIn network to see if anyone they know has worked with the client, and even more precise, with the hiring manager.  They might also check Glassdoor to see how happy people are with the company.  We have had the unfortunate experience of having more than one contractor turn down a potentially great role due to a poor review.  Yes, a lot of times the poor feedback is warranted due to difficult projects.  But, a number of independent contractors have mentioned that they felt even though their contract was coming to a natural end, they were poorly exited.  Often times, contractors sight that the hiring managers were not even around on their last day and they did not know who to pass their technology/pass cards or project notes to!  It left many of the contractors feeling they had done bad job even though they met all the deliverables.

Here are some pointers for both client and contractors on how best to off-board a resource/project and maintain a great brand image:

  1. The independent contractor and client should work closely to capture all of the work that has been done during the contract and document important items for future reference.
  2. Communicate to the team that the contract has come to an end and a team member will be leaving.  The contractor should pass along contact details if the client needs to reach you for clarification questions.
  3. If the contractor has stakeholder relationships beyond the key team, ensure that the whole team knows of the upcoming departure.  Often, business clients are left out of the communication chain.
  4. Conduct an exit interview with the contractor to ensure feedback is received.  This exit interview should be done by the hiring manager or by a resource manager/HR.  Key questions to ask the contractor (or for the contractor to share) is did you like the work you were involved with and would you come back to work with the manager or the company.

A successful off-boarding program will add value to the company’s brand as well as help control any potential negative feelings being left unsaid and put out into the marketplace. Maintaining a great brand will help clients attract new contractors and more importantly entice past contractors to return.

Quarterly Job Market Update Across Canada – First Quarter 2017

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on April 20th, 2017

Canadian Job MarketGeneral Observations:

The unemployment rate at the end of the first quarter was 6.7%, an improvement over the 6.9% unemployment rate at the end of the last quarter.  During the previous 12 months Canada added 276,000 jobs.

The stock market continues to be relatively volatile, but perhaps that is the new norm.  For the purposes of this report I focus on the TSX and it has enjoyed a reasonable period of growth ending the first quarter of 2017 at around 15,600 points.  This was up slightly from a reading of 15,300 at the end of last quarter.

Oil canThe oil patch has settled a little, but that isn’t a great news story.  With the price of a barrel hovering around the $50 a barrel range there is a still a conservative approach to adding jobs.  There has been some exodus of foreign money from the oil patch, allowing Canadian companies to increase their property holdings.  While in some ways that is good, it is an indicator that the big players are investing their money in more business friendly jurisdictions.  Even the approval of some pipelines has not generated the positive job impact it might have done a couple of years ago.

Canadian dollar the LoonieThe Canadian dollar seems to be settled around the 75c US level for now, which is where it was last quarter.  While there are some small benefits of a weak Canadian dollar, including positive impact on tourism, overall it is a negative for the Canadian economy and thus for job creation.

The banking sector is one of the bigger employers in Canada, and the Canadian banks have fared well this year with their stock prices riding high.  They are also prudent money managers and have been very careful with their hiring.  Areas of growth for the banks have been any area that improves productivity and profitability, including robotics.  In addition risk mitigation in an era of economic uncertainty has created specific demands.

The telecommunications companies are other big employers in Canada and are also very cost conscious.  While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they too, are also careful about keeping employment costs under control, particularly as they are also acquisitive, which can mean a big focus on integration of acquired companies.  Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.

The US economy continues to add jobs in significant numbers, averaging more than 250,000 jobs a month.  The demand for skills in the US will lure talent from Canada which is good for the individuals but not so good for Canada in the long term.  What has not happened, and is different from previous economic times, is that Canada’s economy has not improved along with US economy, which is one of the indicators of our “new normal” environment.

Construction worker

The demand for the “trades” continues unabated, as the construction industry seems to be forever busy.  Cranes dot the skies of Canada’s largest cities, and home renovation projects are hard to staff!

The three levels of government in Canada are big employers.  Municipal, provincial and Federal governments employ a lot of people and with the current Federal government it was expected their ranks would grow.  There has been some growth in the Federal payroll, about 40,000 in 2016 but it was expected to be more.  All of these governments are dealing with the issue of a fast retiring upper echelon.  The pensions are so lucrative that large numbers of civil servants are eligible for, and invariably take, retirement at a very early age.  This will create opportunity for new jobs, but will also result in a significant brain drain from our government.

The Canadian Staffing Index is an indicator of the strength of the largest provider of talent in any economy (the staffing industry) and an excellent barometer of the health of Canada’s economy. The reading at the end of the first quarter was 110, which was significantly up from last quarter when it was 96.  The reading is not adjusted and so is affected by number of available working hours etc.  Having said that the indication is a positive one.

Eagle LogoHere at Eagle we experienced a 25% increase in demand from our clients in the first quarter of 2017 versus the previous quarter, and the demand was about the same as the first quarter of 2016.  We also experienced a 20% increase in people looking for work over the previous quarter and a 16% increase over the same quarter last year.  This would suggest an uptick in activity that is a positive for the economy, if we can keep it going.

 More Specifically:

cn towerThe Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is Eagle’s busiest region, representing about 60% of our business.  It is also the 4th largest city in North America, containing more than 50% of Canadian head offices and with a population of approximately six (6) million.  This market has remained one of the busier markets in Canada, yet has not been as buoyant as previous years, with banks, telcos and provincial government all just a little slower with their hiring.   We have seen a small increase in demand in the first quarter and anticipate things will pick up as the year progresses.

The Saddledome in CalgaryWestern Canada is of course comprised of the oil patch in Alberta and the rest.  Some provinces have fared better than others, with certainly Alberta taking the brunt of the hit because of its resource based employment.  BC was actually the fastest growing province in Canada in 2016 but with an election coming and legislative interference harming the housing sector, the BC economy has started to slow down.  Saskatchewan has fared better than other provinces with a business friendly government although it too is hit by a decline in oil revenues and is struggling with deficit reduction, so no job boom here. The Conference Board expects Alberta to be the fastest growing province in Canada for 2017 but that remains to be seen as the province is not attracting foreign investment (because of Federal and Provincial government policies) and unemployment remains high.

Parliament building in OttawaEagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”.  While there is a better mood amongst the Federal civil service under the Trudeau government, I can’t say that I share their optimism given his focus on anything but job creation.  There has been an increase in Federal government hiring in 2017 with our civil service now employing an extra 23,000 in just the last year (wonder why our taxes are so high?).  Quebec is enjoying low unemployment and continuing to fund new tech growth in the province (wonder where those transfer payments are spent?).  We anticipate that to continue in 2017.  The Maritime Provinces continue to struggle to create employment and we don’t expect much change there.

The Hot Client Demand.

At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time.  Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts always seem to be in demand. It might just be our focus, but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Big data, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) are specializations that we are seeing more and more. On the Finance and Accounting side, we see a consistent need for Financial Analysts, Accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus Controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA.  Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand.  This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.

Outside of Eagle’s realm some of the in-demand in the trades, a growth in demand skills include the classic tradespeople, drivers, and new tech skills like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, video gaming skills etc.

 Summary:

 There are some positive indicators that would suggest light at the end of the tunnel, but it is early to tell whether that will lead to economic growth.  At a very low growth in GDP, and increasing government debt loads and no clear fiscal policies to help I do not anticipate significant job growth in Canada for a while.

There are however bright spots, caused by demographic shifts (retiring Baby Boomers) and new technologies.  The growth of the “gig economy” creates new opportunities for people to define their own destiny and become mini-entrepreneurs.

The effect of US policy changes by the Trump administration remain to be seen.  Having said that early indicators could see immigration (positive for Canada), trade agreements (possibly negative for Canada) and defense (possibly negative for Canada) all having some impact.

In today’s Canada job seekers need to understand the growing sectors, the in demand jobs and be willing to go where the work is.  If I was looking for work I would be moving to the larger centres, investing in in-demand skills and increasing my marketability with the right “attitude”.

That was my look at the Canadian job market for the third quarter in 2016 and some of its influences.

You Can’t Win a Fight (or succeed at anything) without a Winning Team

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

You Can't Win a Fight (or succeed at anything) without a Winning TeamThe video below introduces you to this year’s Fight Team in the annual Fight to End Cancer, taking place this year on May 27th in Toronto.  These are brave men and women who have stepped out of their homes and offices and into the boxing ring.  They are doing so to raise money for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the Fight to End Cancer.

I was fortunate enough to step in the ring myself a couple of years ago and I know the commitment required.  Eagle has been a proud sponsor and supporter of this event since its inception.  This event aligns perfectly with our core values of integrity, excellence and TEAM.

When a fighter prepares to step in the ring, they join a large team of coaches and sparring partners.  Everyone is working together, with different responsibilities but towards the same goal.    A fighter cannot do this on their own, no single person is a match for a good team.

Business and sports offer natural parallels, none more so than the concept of team.  As an independent contractor, one of the main parts of your job is to get up to speed with a new team.  Understanding what the team’s goals and overall objectives are can help you align yours the same way.  Just as a fight team prepares the fighter for the ring, an IT team prepares a product or service for launch day.  Independent contractors are often the newest members of a team that may have been together for a long time.  Ensuring you are quickly aligned with the team’s goals and overall objectives will result in quicker cohesion and earlier positive results.

I wrote in an earlier post that it is no longer possible for an independent contractor to live in a bubble.  You must be aligned and aware of the business objectives of any IT project.  Teams need to work together towards the same goal.  It may seem obvious… but every team member has to know what those goals are.

I wish all the fighters and their teams the best of luck as the big day approaches.  To all the independent contractors joining new teams, I hope you can align your efforts and objectives as quickly and effectively as possible with a common goal.

Life After Graduation — What’s the Next Step? (Infographic)

You’ve just graduated from University or College and might be unsure to what path you should take next and how you need to go about prepping your application for that dream job. Or maybe you’re itching to travel and not ready to head into the nine to five world straight away. Whatever stage you’re at in deciding your career route, the below infographic by Essay Writing Service UK outlines some key advice on choosing your next path and the options available, as well as what each of those options might entail.

Whatever industry you’re looking to make your mark in (whether that might be now or later on), there are a couple of different routes you can take to get there to enhance your employability and improve your overall experience. From taking the time to go travelling or delving into self-employment if you have the confidence, to continuing your study for further knowledge or carrying out an internship with a company to get your foot in the door.

You need to be aware of your employability and understand that your personal profile can make or break a job application, even if that job application is for working abroad or a temporary part-time job. The below infographic outlines some of the tools you should be using to enhance your employability. These include your resume/CV, your online presence within a booming digital world, as well as some extra considerations you should be thinking about.

In regards to the application process, each individual job application should be tailored towards a specific industry and job role. For example, outlining technical skills and experience should become more of a priority in an IT job application whereas visual representation and portfolio design might become more of a priority for a creative role application.

Whether you’ve already got your nine to five all booked in or you’ve got your heart set on going travelling for six months, discover the tools you need to step into the right direction of your future career today…

Life After Graduation -- What's the Next Step? (Infographic)

All Independent Contractors Should Have Business Cards

There are numerous ways independent contractors can improve their personal branding. In the Talent Development Centre, we’ve advocated ideas such as social media profiles, networking, personal websites and simply maintaining a strong work ethic. One other suggestion we’ve made is to create business cards to be left behind after meeting somebody.

We could use this post to inundate you with the many arguments for creating your own business cards, as well as list tips for creating the best business cards, but today is Friday and nobody wants to read another list. Instead, here’s a quick video that sums up everything you need to know.

If you don’t have business cards yet, what are you waiting for?

Quick Poll Results: Preferred Contract Length

How long do IT contractors prefer their contracts to be? If you’ve been losing sleep over this, wondering if you’re on the same page as everyone else, then worry no more. Last month’s contractor quick poll asked that exact question and, as usual, we’re sharing the results.

Have a look at the chart below. If you have no preference, or prefer super short contracts, you just might be in luck as it should be easier to compete for work with those timeframes.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: What's your preferred contract length?

Contractor Quick Poll: Do you customize your resume?

A very commonly heard technique when applying to jobs is to customize your resume so it’s tailored to match the specific job description. We hear it a lot, but how many independent contractors actually take the time to do it?

It’s completely understandable why you wouldn’t. IT contractors apply to numerous jobs with many agencies all the time, and continuously customizing would be a massive time commitment. As well, many job boards including Monster, Indeed and even Eagle allow you to upload your resume once and apply to multiple jobs without having to upload another. This allows you to quickly apply to new technology opportunities on the go, but if you’re on the go, you’re not able to customize a resume. (Tip: You can upload multiple files to your Eagle profile and track past jobs to which you have applied. Return any time to upload a new resume, changing the file name to match the Job ID of each specific job).

This bring us to our Contractor Quick Poll for this month — how many IT contractors customize their resume? Even more, we’d love to learn in the comments if you think it is, in fact, a helpful strategy.

Independent Contractors Must Understand Accounting

Have you finished your taxes yet or are you waiting until the last-minute before starting? Accounting and taxes are one of the biggest headaches independent contractors report having to manage in their business. That’s why many hire out their bookkeeping. Still, other contractors prefer to manage accounting year-round and only go to an accountant occasionally when professional advice or revision is necessary.

Whether you do your own accounting or hire it out, every independent contractor still needs to understand the basics of the trade in order to properly analyze their business’s success and plan strategically for the following year. Without this knowledge, you’re likely to find yourself unpleasantly surprised due to decisions you made without the proper knowledge.

As usual, we strongly encourage you to consult with a professional accountant. However, if you’d like an overview of accounting basics, then this infographic from Bplans is a great start.

Accounting Cheat Sheet Infographic
Courtesy of: Bplans