Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….

Archive for December, 2008

Where do I find jobs online? Or how do I get found?

Posted by sweens on December 23, 2008

I’m thinking that today’s post with be relatively short due to the Christmas Poker Game that is scheduled to begin in my office in a short while.  Today’s post will be talking about the job boards people should be searching on when they are looking for a new job.  I think we should focus on two aspects of finding a job.  1 – When a person wants to be found but isn’t really looking for a job.  Recruiters call these type of candidates ‘passive candidates’, and it really means that they aren’t looking to make a move (they are almost always employed) but would consider listening to a new opportunity to see if it was greater then what they currently have.  2 – When a person is going out on the internet and searching for a new opportunity.  This is done frequently by contractors and are referred to as ‘active candidates’. 

Let’s deal with passive candidates first.  Since passive candidates aren’t pounding on the job boards looking for new positions, the best way to remain in the labour market is to be found.  This is mainly done by social networking or by branding yourself online.  Let’s look at what are my most common methods for attractive a passive candidate.  The first is by searching Monster.ca.  Here a candidate can upload their resume where companies can pay to search these resumes.  Simple and effective.  Posting your resume on Monster can generate a lot of traffic coming your way but may prove to be in your best interest as you never know what opportunities are out there and who’s looking for someone just like you.  The second option I would recommend is LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is essentially the Facebook for professionals.  Any individual can create an account for free and ‘market’ themselves.  It allows you to create a moderate sized profile of yourself from personal interests to professional experience.  I find LinkedIn useful because of the group function which allows you to connect with like minded professionals.  There are groups for every facet of the work force.  The biggest benefit I get from LinkedIn as a recruiter is that the people on LinkedIn are open to sharing information, which is the whole idea behind social networking.  People offer tips on where to find candidates, who’s hiring, what to search for, etc.  LinkedIn allows you to view profiles of people you are interested in speaking to, you can ask for introductions or recommendations.  All in all its a great tool.  While not highly used, LinkedIn is also a source for people to post jobs.  Something worth checking out…

Secondly, we should discuss active candidates and where they should be headed when they are searching for a job.  You have more options this way.  Commonly used job boards are probably the best place to start.  These are sites like Workopolis, Jobs in Canada, Monster, etc.  Some sites that aren’t used as commonly are city based classified sites such as Craigslist or Kijiji.  I would also recommend people searching for jobs in speciality groups.  For example, Ottawa has an Asterisks User group which I used to search for an Asterisk developer.  Google has a tone of speciality groups that can be overly useful.  You can also look for speciality sites like HigherBracket, which specialize in posting jobs for positions that pay over 100K. 

While the options seems almost limitless, it is important to tailor your job search in such a way that will attract as much attention to you as possible – as well as putting the jobs of greatest interest to you in front of you as much as possible.  I guess that last recommendation I could offer would be to check a companies website as it should be frequently update with the most recent positions.  Perhaps my inspiration for this posting was that I have posted numerous jobs – both yesterday and today – in hopes of generating some traffic over the holidays.  Good luck to everyone in their job searches.

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How do I market myself…

Posted by sweens on December 22, 2008

Well its beautiful day in the Nations Capital today and by beautiful I mean its ridiculously cold outside.  With the wind it must feel like -5000 degrees.  As I look out my window I see a man taking pictures on the roof of an adjacent building and suddenly I don’t feel so cold.  Now that my rant on the weather is over, I’d like to continue with todays posting where I’d like to talk about how an individual should market themselves to a prospective employer, or in my case, to a recruiter.  I think the question everyone should be asking themselves before they hit ‘submit’ on any application is: What seperates my resume from the 10, 100 or 1000 other applicants that want this job?

I don’t mean to stereotype everyone that applies for a job because some people are really good at resume writing and know how to market themselves, but there are others who simply have a generic resume and apply to numerous jobs.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.  I recently was searching for 3 positions at the same time.  One was for a Project Manager, one was for an IT Director type role and the third was for someone to manage an IT Portfolio.  Now many of the responsibilites for each job required non IT skills such as managing teams, project planning and budgeting but when I break down the titles of each position all three jobs are very different and would require a different career path in order to reach each position.  With all that being said, I probably received applications from 15 people that applied for all three jobs.  As a recruiter that doesn’t make me feel very good. 

The reason it doesn’t make me feel very good is that when I am looking to staff any position, I am looking to find ‘THE’ candidate and not just someone who can do the job.  I am a big believer that there is a job out there that is a match for everyone, but every job doesn’t match every person.  Put yourself in the eyes of the recruiter or company before you submit your resume.  If I’m looking for a project manager, I feel great when a resume comes across my desk that says I’ve been a project manager in these 10 roles, I’m PMP certified and I’m part of the Project Management Institute.  Why does that make me feel good.  1)  It demonstrates that you have been performing a project management role in your last 10 positions.  2) It means you have taken personal time to get certified.  3) You are committed to continually updating your skills.  But does that mean a 20 year sales manager isn’t just as qualified to do the same job?  Not necessarily.  The sales manager has probably done project management for 15 of those 20 years and has more professional IT experience.  So where’s the problem?

 The problem is that the majority of people who have been with a company for the long term (See previous positing – but I’m referring to companies like Nortel, Cognos, Bell, etc) have been involved in so many different responsibilities that they are unable to focus on one particular skill set when they apply for a new position.  Let’s continue with a project management position for a minute – when I am screening a project management role I’m looking for someone’s resume who reads as a project manager and not as someone who has been a manager but done project management.  As the two are very different.  Is that necessarily the best way to do things?  No, but I do know that my clients have a screener on their end (who may know absolutely nothing about the role) who will be reviewing resumes of candidates I put in front of them, and they are going to be looking for what the job description says in someones resume.

So what can someone do to increase their chances of getting through the door and further into the process.  The simple answer is take some time and make your resume as pointed as possible.  Your resume should reflect the position you are applying for and shouldn’t be a generic resume where your just hoping to get through the door.  As I mentioned in an earlier posting, it is a recruiters job to read between the lines and dig more out of your resume, however your resume is being considered against hundreds or thousands of resumes so it may not be in your best interest to float in a generic resume.  Before we go any further I should say that fabricating information on your resume to better align you with a position is not a good thing.  It will always come out and won’t work out in your favour.  The suggestion I am perhaps offering is that if you have done project management in a previous position and you are looking for a project management position, then make sure your resume says: “At this job I was doing project management, here’s how I did it, and here’s what I accomplished with it.”  If you leave your resume stating ‘Software Manager’ (for example) can you really expect a recruiter to assume that you were involved in project management while performing that position?  I think a good way to look at it would be that someone took the time to create a job description so you may want to take a bit of time making sure your resume reflects the requirements on that job description.  A little bit of work on the front end may save you a lot of work on the back end. 

How can you do that?  Simple, create a generic resume and save it.  When you then go to apply for a job save a new version that is slightly tailored for the specific job you are applying for.  As a closing note I would like to mention something that touches on my earlier comment of trying to find THE right employee.  I think applicants should take a second to consider that with the current economic situation spending for any company is most likely going to be tighter then in previous years.  Which means that an employer is going to need to feel very secure and confident about hiring someone.  A strong resume can be your first step to demonstrating why someone should put their confidence in you!

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Who makes the best Recruiter…

Posted by sweens on December 19, 2008

I just got back from an interesting lunch with some former and current colleagues of mine.  To be more accurate these people are the ones who have helped me thus far in my career.  It’s always refreshing to get together with them (which has become a Friday regular occurrence)  as we can share different views, opinions and frustrations with the industry that all employs us.  Based on a conversation yesterday I had during lunch time , combined with the lunch I had today, I pose the question of “who makes the best Recruiter?”  Since recruiting technical IT position is all I have recruited to date (with the exception of a few marketing roles) this post is obviously about technical recruiting and perhaps what it takes to be one? 

I look at the people I have lunch with every Friday and we all come from different backgrounds, different educations, different personalities and yet everyone offers something unique to the position of ‘technical recruiter’.  It has been important for me to keep track of where my colleagues have worked and what their experiences have been as many of them didn’t begin their careers with recruitment but have all ended up being successful within the industry.  Where as myself, my professional career has existed souly in this industry.  Many of my colleagues have management in their background from small to large teams.  They came from different industries from health to security to information technology and to agriculture.  We all bring a varied mix of education to the table from University to College to Graduate studies in a variety of subject areas.  So with all that on the table, the question I often wonder about is what makes someone like myself, a University graduate with a degree in political science qualified to be a ‘technical recruiter’ when really I know nothing about technology? 

I don’t think recruiting is a position many people think about when they sit down with their guidance councillor in high school and try to map out their lives, yet so many people find their careers in recruitment.  My friends often wonder how someone who is not technical can be involved in technical recruiting?  Shouldn’t someone with a computer science degree be involved in technical recruitment.  I think they could, but would it be the best fit for them?  I think a large portion of recruiting is personality and how you deal with people.  Your always on the phone or meeting people whether it be clients or candidates.  The ability to represent yourself, your company, your client and the opportunity you have for someone must be quickly demonstrated to any candidate in a short period of time.  In order to be successful I would say that you have to build a very trusting relationship with perfect strangers on a daily basis.  So lets say personality is the first step to being a recruiter.  Let’s back track for a second and look at technical people being recruiters.  I don’t think its a requirement.  But I will say that if you aren’t technical you have to be open to learning about technologies and as much as you can about the industry.  It’s the only way to survive.  The best tip I ever got was to look up the technologies before you started searching for the position and know what each technology is.  Being honest with people also helps you.  My personal strategy has always been to be upfront with candidates in letting them know that I am not technical.  I have found this approach to be successful as people are more open to sharing detailed informaton with me as well as they are open to explaining the technologies they were using, the role they played within the group and how it all fit into the bigger picture. 

I think the benefit a non-technical recruiter can bring to a technical recruitment position is that they will ask a lot of questions (since they need to feel confident in their candidates) but more importantly, they can adapt to numerous roles and grasp a generic concept of the many positions.  Allow me to explain that thought.  I have found so far that technical people seem to specialize in one area of technolgy.  A PeopleSoft programmer knows everything there is to know about PeopleSoft Programming.  Clearly this person is a technical candidate but if he or she was recruiting would they be any more qualified to assess candidates for an Oracle 10g Database Administration position then a polictics graduate like myself?  Probably not?  I think the benefit a non-technical person brings is the ability to understand many technical positions with a view from 50, 000 feet.  But the ability to do that is souly on the recruiter who has to strive to learn the technologies he or she is working with and understand what each specific role is supposed to do.  This certainly isn’t an easy task but it gets much easier as time goes by.  Resumes start to read more simply and you know what searches to do.  Ultimately speeding up your process and allowing you to draw from a larger and quicker pipeline of possible candidates.

While I often wish I knew more about technology, I have come to a realization that it is not a requirement for this job.  But in order to be successful you have to shoulder the bulk of the learning curve and you must learn from each position you recruit because a similarly one is like coming across your desk in the near future….

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Snapshot…

Posted by sweens on December 18, 2008

So I often get phone calls from people who are curious as to what the current labour market is like or from people who are curious about who’s still hiring in todays economy.  Firstly, the Federal Government is still pounding out the usual amout of work for contractors.  While things tend to slow down the closer you get to Christmas, they will certainly pick up in 2009 and into March as Government fiscal year end draws nearer and departments are looking to spend any excess funds they may have at their disposal.  The private sector is however a different story. 

Ottawa’s IT sector has seen its share of employment cuts over the last year but especially within the last 6 months.  Some of the major players have been Bell, Dell, Avaya, and Nortel.  Others are expected to join the corporate down sizing to cut operating costs during the economic down turn.  Adobe recently announced they would be cutting up to 600 jobs in light of less demand for their recently launched Creative Suite 4 product line.  However layoffs aren’t the only reason the Ottawa job market is looking the way it is.  Ottawa has also seen its share of corporate mergers or acquisitions throughout the year as well.  Most noteably, IBM purchasing Cognos for roughly $5 Billion (or $58 per share).  Cognos, which was always seen as one of the best employers in the city, represented the last Canadian run software company of its size.  This merger has left many Cognoits looking for positions outside of ‘big blue’ either by personal choice or duplication of roles between the two companies.  On a personal note, having worked at Cognos for 3+ years while attending University, it certainly was a special place to work.

As a recruiter who now sees a large number of resumes from the companies mentioned above a trend is apparent to me .  The above mentioned companies were able to retain their employees for lengthy periods of time.  It is not uncommon for people who have recently moved on from Cognos or Nortel for example to have worked at that company for 10, 15, 20 years.  This is also a common trend for former Bell employees as Bell offers a pension to its employees.  I guess the point of mentioning that is where do those people who have worked for the same company for the majority, if not all of their professional lives, go from there?  Some suggest that generation ‘X’ (people like my father – an 18  year Cognos veteran) are loyal to a company and once they are in they try to grow within the company.  The flip side is that generation ‘y’ (my generation) isn’t interested in loyality with employers and are constantly going from job to job.  Having spoken to my VP at Procom he has stated numerous times that 10 years ago when recruiting someone who had gone from job to job, that was viewed as a negative thing.   As someone who is recruiting now and into 2009 I would say that the times have changed and staying with a company for numerous years (while not negative) doesn’t make you as marketable to a prospective employer. 

For whatever reason, todays job market seems to be focused on two things that weren’t priorities 10 years ago.  1) Diversity.  2) Certifications.  I amazed at how many requirements (both public and private) are tied to certifications:  PMP; ITIL; MCSE; etc.  So here I am, a 24 year old recruiter, who looks back 2 years and remembers not being able to get out of school fast enough, considering going back to school for certifications.  While ‘recruiter’ certifications are hard to come by, Human Resources certifications are more common and offered here in Ottawa.  Algonquin College offers a Human Resources Management Certification (HRM) which is CHRP recognized.  As where Carleton University offers a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP).  Which is better?  I’m still trying to investigate so if you have any suggestions or comments I’d appreciate it.

In closing, the job market today isn’t what it was a year ago.  Some of Ottawa’s big players have been forced to make cut backs leaving many long time serving employees without employment.  The challenge is how do those people market themselves to take on a new career options and what should their expectations be…

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Welcome to blogging…

Posted by sweens on December 16, 2008

Well this is going to be my first post as an online blogger.  It certainly has been something I have been interested in for a while.  As a Technical Recruiter I have had the ability to review resumes of candidates who are big into social blogging and evaluate some of their work to see the benefits or short comings blogging can offer.  I have recently strived to dig deep into the vast pocket of social networking (particularly with LinkedIn) and used the power of the Internet as best as possible.

I guess that brings me to the idea of what my blog should be about.  I live an interesting lifestyle one could say in that I essentially work two full time jobs.  I am Technical Recruiter by day.  I’m employed by Procom Consultants Group in their Ottawa office.  At the moment I am responsible for all the recruitment that takes place out of the Ottawa office.  The list of responsibilities that I have include (but as a resume should always say – but isn’t limited to) Recruitment Technologies,  Recruitment Process Best Practices, Labour Market Analysis, Performance-Based Job Descriptions, Behavioural-Based Interviewing Techniques and Attraction and Acquisition Strategies.  Through training received at Procom I have taken some sales training (via SalesForce) as well as Performance-Based-Hiring (via The Adler Group).  But more importantly, what I have quickly noticed in my short recruiting background is that to be succcessful in this job requires a lot of effort from your co-workers to show you how the job is done.  I think at times people can assume that recruiting is simply someone sitting down reviewing resumes when really there is so much more that goes into it.  As an individual who reviews resumes on a daily basis (sometimes hundreds) it would be fair to say that resume writing isn’t the strongest skill-set many individuals have.  Therefore it is any recruiters job to be able to read through the words on your resume and extract what information can be found between the lines.  With todays economy in whatever state it is in, if a company is engaging any recruiting, head-hunting, professional service firm, they need to be very sure of what they are getting as their is a premium fee associated with any placement.  Simply matching resumes to job descriptions isn’t enough in todays day and age and that’s the real benefit a recruiter with a solid recruiting process can bring to any organization looking to expand.  I sort of got off track there but I think the point was more to say that I would not still be employed as a recruiter if it wasn’t for my colleagues who took the time to train me, show me how to properly evaluate and assess candidates as well as work with me during the learning curve.  The exciting thing for me about recruiting is that it changes.  Every job is different and every person is different, ultimately meaning that every recruit is different.  And I once heard that variety is the spice of life so that seems like a good match for me…

Now I earlier mentioned that I had two jobs.  My ‘night job’ if you will is that as an on-ice hockey official.  I said it was that of a full time job because that is what it has become for me.  I take it very seriously as it is something has I have been doing for quite some time now (entering my tenth season).  Is there a career in it for me?  Who knows?  Sometimes I think yes but most times I doubt it.  When I say career I ultimately mean is there a spot to officiate in the NHL for me?  It’s a difficult road.  The interesting thing about referees I find and perhaps why it is such a close group of people is that no-one grows up and says “I want to be a referee”.  It’s not something you spend your childhood working at because everyone wants to make it as a player.  For me I wasn’t very good at playing but gradually progressed as an official and it has taken me to amazing places.  I have been fortunate enough to work 4 national championships and represent Hockey Canada.  I have a full time position with the Ontario Hockey League.  I’ve been able to travel.  See some amazing players and some amazing events.  I say this not to brag as I have been much more fortunate then many officials and would not be in the position I am without the help of many, however the love for the game is the easiet motivation for any official to continue striving to work harder and try to improve.  In order to make it to the ‘show’ as we would call it, requires much hard work from gym time to skating lessons, to rule knowledge and theory.  It certainly hasn’t been easy going from one ‘job’ to another ‘job’ but I’m passionate about both and it keeps me out of trouble. 

I guess it’s time to wrap this up as there is some much need recruiting that needs to take place.  I started this blog with the idea of trying to find out what this blog should be about and I think I ramlbed on more about myself then needed to.  However I did come out of this with an idea that this blog should be about the labour market, recruitment, how to find a job, tips, etc from the eyes of a recruiter.  Many of the individuals I come across have little idea on how to market themselves properly to the labour market when really they would be sought after by any company in the region.  I am by no means suggesting that I am an expert, because really I’m not.  I’m still learning, after every phone call, every interview and every position.  Perhaps this will be a place where I just write down my thoughts and you can take them for what they are worth. 

If anyone does read this and would like to send me a copy of their CV for future reference or simply to discuss, I would be happy to.  Procom specializes in IT staffing.  Here in Ottawa we deal with both the private and public sector so our portfolio of clients is diverse.  You can send me an email with or without your CV to: toms@procom.ca .

I hope the ramblings weren’t to painful…

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