Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….

Archive for May, 2009

How many hours is enough…

Posted by sweens on May 28, 2009

I was reading a blog the other day which dealt with how many hours an employee had to work on a daily basis to satisfy their employer.  I thought this was a really good question to be asking.  I have been in situations where staying late was ‘strongly’ encouraged by my employer.

To which I say – I have no problem staying late.  If there is a reason to stay late!  Often times I have seen employees staying late just to satisfy their employer but they are not really doing anything constructive.  Is there anything wrong with putting in a phenomenal effort for the 9 – 5 traditional work day, and then calling it a day?  I do not think so.

At what point is an employer satisfied with the work day an employee puts in?  Personally I have always enjoyed working for people who let me be as long as I was doing my job.  Take my position for example.  I send out a lot of emails on a daily basis.  People are normally getting back to me after I have gone home for the day.  I fire up my email remotely and respond to some of them.  I call people once they are home from work.  I do not want a pat on the back for this, but I do expect my employer to recognize that while I may leave work at 5pm some days, the work day has not come to end.

Perhaps this is a difference between consultants and employees.  If I work 70 hours in a week (god help me) I do not get paid extra.  But working those hours gives me the opportunity to close some business which in turn is like being paid overtime.  Some consultants for example can work 70 hours in a week and then bill out 70 hours per week.  It is in their interest to do so for the monetary compensation associated with the overtime hours.

I personally want to work for an organization that values the work I do for the company and not how many phone calls or emails I make per day. 

** This post was inspired by Tina Wagener @

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EI jumps 10.6%

Posted by sweens on May 26, 2009

I was catching up on my Employment Insurance (EI) news this afternoon on CBC’s website.  There was a video on some EI statistics that were just released by Statistics Canada.  The statistics were not good either.  EI rose by 10.6% from February to March.

 65,300 more people began collecting EI in March which brought the Canadian total to just above 681,000 people.  CBC was reporting that since the labour market began to deteriorate in October of 2008, March was the highest month for an increase in EI applications.

 Please visit for more information.

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Networking: What I’ve turned to….

Posted by sweens on May 25, 2009

Suddenly I have embarked on a recruiting mission. I am involved in the recruitment of several IT professionals to fill a proposal for the Federal Government. While it sounds like a dream come to – things often seem better then they sound. The challenge for this particular recruit is that we are bidding for the right to do business with our client. And not bidding on actual business.

This poses many challenges for the recruitment process that come up in this type of recruit. Firstly I find it ethically wrong to broadcast or post these jobs because I do not technically have a job for anyone I am speaking to. Should my firm be deemed compliant from our bid, we may then be given some business by our client. All I can offer them is first right of refusal should the business be award to us.

Now this means that I have a tougher time finding people because I can not reach as many candidates as I usually do. But more importantly, it makes the candidates not as likely to help me with the process. As I have mentioned before, I do not come from a technical background, so when it comes to filling out grids for candidates I can only take it so far before I need their help.

Since I am not offering them an ‘issued’ contract, they are not as likely to spend time working on their CV or a skills grid. As such, I am hoping to rely on my network of trusted candidates. People I have worked with before and have relationships with who will hopefully see the long term possibility of working with me for this proposal.

Yeahhhh for networking….

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Attention: HR & Recruiting Professionals

Posted by sweens on May 22, 2009

I came across this survery on and wanted to pass it along to any Recruiter or HR professional who was interested. 

A survey designed to help candidates in the job search process –

This blog was found at the following location –  It was posted by Jessica Miller-Merrell.

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Scarce resources: Not so scarce anymore??

Posted by sweens on May 21, 2009

Perhaps I am reading into things, but I am certainly leaning towards the notion that the current labour conditions have affected any type of IT position around. I say this because in the last two weeks I have had two requirements that I normally would struggle to find someone for – but for some reason, I have turned up numerous quality candidates.

I am speaking about SharePoint and SAP resources. While finding candidates with this skill set may not seem to be difficult, finding ones that have a secret level of clearance is.

Yet for some reason these once ‘scarce’ resources do not seem so hard to find. While I am sure I will not be able to place everyone I have been speaking to, this is certainly giving me the opportunity to build my book of candidates and grow my network.

Whatever is going on right now is good for any recruiter who will be around once the economy comes back. Building up your database now should be a priority for any and every staffing firm.

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Working with a ‘Systems Integrator’: The demonical side of recruiting

Posted by sweens on May 20, 2009

While the title of this blog may seem harsh, my intent is two fold.  Firstly, to illuminate my frustrations in recruiting positions for system integrators, and secondly, to have an attractive headline that hopefully brought you to this blog.

But all jokes aside, recruiting positions with, or for systems integrators, is usually a very frustrating experience for me.  I find these positions more challenging to recruit then other positions where my firm is the only company involved in the search.  My frustrations stem from two spots:

1 – There are too many companies trying to make money off the contract
2 – There are too many people involved in the process

 Firstly, when two companies are involved in presenting candidates to an ‘end client’, you have entered a situation where two companies are trying to make margin off the same candidate.  Often times, the client has a price in mind, so you subtract the margin from one firm, then the second firm, and you are usually left with a pay rate to the candidate (the person who is actually going to do the work) that is much lower then the market value.

 While I understand the reasons behind this – companies exist to make money for the exchange of a service – it is frustrating as a recruiter because I often see good candidates slip through the opportunity, or I have to talk my candidate down to a much lower rate. 

Secondly, when multiple companies become involved, there are too many players in the process, which ultimately slows it down.  Scheduling interviews and getting feedback suddenly becomes a painful process as the schedules and timelines for at least 5 people are now thrown into the mix.

While I see the prospect of staffing for system integrators, I can also see (and experience) the challenges associated with this piece of business.

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References Checks: Decreasing in value…

Posted by sweens on May 19, 2009

I would argue that reference checks are becoming decreasingly valuable in the current hiring practices of the labour market and can often be expendable. Having done many of them in my short time in the recruiting industry, I have found them to be more of a formality then anything – and they offer little insight into my candidates that I did not already know through speaking to them.

Reference checks are an immeasurable way to measure the qualities or achievements of any given individual. Reference checks are subject to interpretation and manipulation more times then not. Everyone is able to find someone in their past who can provide them with a positive reference – so can that information really be seen as accurate?

We now work in an environment where it is not socially acceptable to provide negative references on former employees or co-workers. However most of the time, the negative information is really what you are digging for from a reference. Most candidates will be happy to tell you all the good things about themselves – but it is the negative things you need to unearth. But if you can not get that information out of your references, why bother?

Some companies will not even give a reference these days. It is a policy some HR departments make on behalf of their company and everyone else must abide by the policy. Not so great for employees coming out of that company.

But the problem does not sit solely with the person providing the reference or the candidate who names the references. The problem also lies with the person checking the reference. Many times, recruiters can ask questions that walk the reference down the road you want your reference to go. Tailoring questions to your candidate and having your reference legitimize your candidate.

 Is this good?

Yes it is – for you – but it defeats the purpose of the reference check. This system of checking a reference is no different then interviewing a candidate and asking those questions you want answered which serve only to screen your candidate in to your job. This method simply ends up matching your candidate to the job you have rather then evaluating your candidates experience and their needs to the needs of your client.

Ultimately, I feel that reference checks are becoming a less effective measure of someone’s ability, or as any of kind of metric, as was perceived in the past. Companies and recruiters should strive to find a better approach to measuring the completeness of someone’s previous work history, rather then conducting some ‘old school’ reference check.

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Senior candidates: Use with caution…

Posted by sweens on May 15, 2009

Well I have suggested it a few times in previous blogs that senior resources would start to feel the pressure of the recession and would begin to start considering lower paying – lower positions – within an organization and I am beginning to see it.

For whatever reason, I saw a flurry of positions this week where some of them where junior to intermediate (2 – 5 years experience). My rates were indicative of the experience required and I had numerous applications from senior level resources. Sure enough they told me what they were expecting in terms of a per diem – way above what I could offer them – but once I told them what my rate was – 90% of the candidates were willing to accept that.

Is that good?

Yes and no. As I have mentioned before, it is good for the client(s) as they can get a senior resource without having to pay for them. But it is also bad as these candidates will likely be the first to leave should a higher paying opportunity come around.

So I suggest it again – use with caution….

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Company Morale: How important is it?

Posted by sweens on May 13, 2009

I think the answer is ‘pretty darn”.  I was reading an article today which was discussing when a company has a run of layoffs, they need to follow up on those layoffs otherwise they run the risk of lower productivity and trashed reputations.  What I liked from this article was the following quote:

“ There is a great myth that, following a layoff, the surviving employees will be so grateful that they still have a job that they’ll work harder and be more productive.  The opposite is usually true.”

I really liked that quote because I believe it is true.  And I believe this for two reasons:

1 – I have been through layoffs
2 – Some of my best recruits have been candidates who came from a company that just laid off some people

Being laid off is not an enjoyable experience for anyone.  Granted some people volunteer to be laid off, but ultimately it is not an experience people want to go though.  But surviving a lay off is not a great experience either.  I have seen my share of shake-ups in an organization and once the layoffs are done and you have settled back in, a lot of questions pop up into your mind.

Many of your friends are likely gone.  Tensions are a bit higher.  The whole dynamic of an organization can change over night.  Those are big obstacles to over come and often times can lead to more of a shake-up then expected.  Those people, who survived, are likely not as happy as before. 

As a recruiter, this is a great time to swoop in and look for candidates.  People will start to look for a job once their employment satisfaction drops below a certain level.  These candidates often represent some of the best talent available in the labour market so stay on top of your local news to see what is going on in terms of layoffs.

Ultimately, there is a big onus on the company to monitor the morale of any company.  Employees need to be kept in the know and re-assured about the position of the company (within reason).  Ignoring this can lead to a growing frustration within the staff, and your top-performers are likely going to start looking elsewhere…


** The article can be found in the OTTAWA HR MAGAZINE – May 11, 2009 issue – Written by Stefan Dubowski

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Recession will change retirement plans…

Posted by sweens on May 11, 2009

When I was twenty one and was nearing graduation from University, I was continually flooded by professors, friends, family, etc; telling me how great it was to be my age.  I would have ample opportunities for employment as my generation was supposed to replace the baby boomers within the work force.  Sounded great at the time – but its not looking that way right now!

It seems to me that with the current recession we are facing, many individuals who had plans on retiring over the next few years are going to be putting those plans on hold.  RRSPs have been hurt with some people losing up to 50% (if not more) of their nest egg that they had planned on using for retirement.  It is not such a great time to be thinking retirement now is it?

As such, many of  these baby boomers who were supposed to be retiring in the next while are likely going to remain in the labour market while they try to rebuild their retirement savings.  This will likely mean less change within the labour market and the younger generations – like mine – will likely be shut out of many highly sought after positions for a little while longer.

Perhaps growing up or getting older is not looking as good as we all thought it would…

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Hobbies on your CV…

Posted by sweens on May 8, 2009

I have recently been playing tag with a fellow recruiter on blogging ideas.  Lately our blogs have been very similar so I was checking out his blog out and he was checking my blog out.  He had an interesting article on putting hobbies on your CV and how most times – that information is fairly useless.

I would have to agree with him on that and as such I suggest you check out the article.  Please visit:

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ATIP Professionals: Kind of like where’s Waldo…

Posted by sweens on May 7, 2009

I am currently in the middle of a search for an ATIP (Access to Information and Privacy) professional and I have decided that those resources are extremely scarce. My client is not even asking for that much experience – 3 years or more. Which generally is not a great deal – but for an ATIP Analyst it is turning out to be a deal breaker.

I have found several people on Monster, Workopolis, LinkedIn, etc who all have ATIP listed on their CVs or profiles; however none of them have 3+ years experience. It seems to be a skill people pick up here and there but never really specialize in.

To be fair I have reached out to 5 or 6 individuals, however to make this position even more of a recruiting challenge – the candidates must have a SECRET level clearance.

Anyone know where all the ATIP resources have gone? Because I am looking…..

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Twitter as a recruitment tool: I’m not buying it…

Posted by sweens on May 5, 2009

I signed up for Twitter about a month ago which came out of a conversation with my boss about using it as a recruitment tool of some sort.  Since signing up I have not used it once.  No ‘tweets’ for me – yet somehow I have 21 users following me.  I am not sure why these people would want to follow me as I do not know any of them and I have no content for them to keep in touch with.

I get a lot of spam emails from my LinkedIn contacts who are trying to promote webinars or are sending out email marketing campaigns that deal with getting ‘on board’ the Twitter train and using it as an effective tool.  The problem for me is the number of words you can use per ‘tweet’ – which I have learned is 140. 

For me, I can not convey enough useful information to someone about a position I am looking to staff in 140 words.  Maybe I like to use too much detail?  Maybe not!  But one thing is for certain, I am a BIG believer that a job positing is not a list of requirements and an ‘apply here’ button.

Your job description has to give the audience a sense of the job.  What they are going to be expected to perform, deliverables, team size, organization, responsibilities, qualifications, etc.  Giving that information to anyone is simply not something I have been able to master in 140 words or less. 

This leaves me with no professional use for Twitter.  I logged in before I wrote this post and I saw a lot of people saying ‘I am doing so and so” or “hurry and get such and such before it leaves”.  While this may work for some products or some people, it does not work for me and does not help me recruit candidates.

The problem with publishing a non-detailed job description is that it attracts too many candidates – most of which will not be what you are looking for.  If I sat down and wrote a ‘tweet’ discussing a need to find an experienced QA Manager, I would not be able to clarify my need to find a QA Manager with automated testing experience, using LoadRunner with the management skills needed to deliver high level reports to CIOs and manage a staff of 20 junior testers.  While all at the same time, discussing the company and what it had to offer to any potential employee. 

As such, at this time in my career, I am going to have to say ‘NO’ to Twitter.  If I feel like sharing my thoughts to the world I can use my LinkedIn account to touch my professional connections or I can use Facebook to notify my friends.  Twitter is just too little too late in my case…

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Bid Rigging Update

Posted by sweens on May 4, 2009

The witness: Convicted bid-rigger takes aim at tech firms
By Elizabeth Howell
, Ottawa Business Journal Staff

The sentence: a $5,000 donation to charity

A vice-president of one of the tech firms charged with bid rigging has been convicted and will serve as a key witness as the matter proceeds through the courts this summer, court documents show.

On Feb. 23, Veritaaq Consulting’s Shannon Lambert signed a statement of facts submitted to the Ontario Court of Justice, admitting she participated in rigging an IT contract for Transport Canada.

For the Transport Canada contract under investigation, Ms. Lambert fingered three firms as the alleged ringleaders of a bid-rig conspiracy: TPG Technology Consulting Ltd., the Devon Group Ltd. and Donna Cona Inc.

Donald Powell, who heads TPG and has an ongoing grievance against the government related to another bid that he claims was changed to favour Montreal’s CGI Group Inc., was the head of the group, the document stated.

TPG has claimed the bid-rigging case was revived due to Mr. Powell’s testimony in the CGI case before the House of Commons in June 2008.

“The bidders’ objective was to win as much of the work resulting from the RFP (request for proposals) at Transport Canada as possible,” read the statement signed by Ms. Lambert.

“The bidders agreed on the content of their bids, including technical and financial information with respect to resources by securing specific, agreed-upon resources that they knew would obtain high scores during the technical evaluation process.

“By submitting the same names and work experience information, the bidders hoped to obtain the best scores possible and secure the rights to provide services.”

But Mr. Powell did not attend about three-quarters of the meetings for the contract under question, argued Serge Buy, a consultant at Flagship Solutions acting as the public spokesperson for TPG.

“This is just bloody ridiculous,” he said.
“My worry is (this case) is doing a good job to destroy Mr. Powell’s credibility. The fact of the matter is all of this will be proven in court, but in the meantime the court of public opinion is there.”

The statement signed by Ms. Lambert noted the meetings were presided over by Thomas Townsend, who was working for Mr. Powell at the time. Mr. Townsend has been charged with bid rigging in regard to the Transport Canada contract.

There are also eight Canada Border Service Agency contracts and one Public Works contract from 2005 being investigated.

“In order to be charged with bid rigging … an individual must be party to the agreement at hand,” wrote Competition Bureau spokesperson Alexa Thorp in an e-mail.

“However, joint ventures are permissible under the Competition Act. Any party to an agreement or arrangement must explicitly notify the tendering authority of the agreement or arrangement to avoid liability under this offence. It is not enough that the tendering authority ought to have known there was an agreement because of past practice or because identical prices were submitted.”

Public Works will maintain business relations with Veritaaq and the other firms charged for the time being, stated spokesperson Nathalie Betote Akwa.

“(Public Works) has undertaken an administrative review to determine if administrative measures are warranted against Veritaaq and other companies and individuals,” she wrote in an e-mail, noting the department is acting with “due diligence and fairness” as it investigates under section 40.1 of the Financial Administration Act.

In exchange for her upcoming testimony, Ms. Lambert received protection in the Competition Bureau’s immunity program for the eight CBSA and single Public Works contracts.

However, another unnamed witness came forward first for the lone Transport Canada contract, disqualifying Ms. Lambert for immunity. For her activities in that contract, she received a suspended sentence requiring she donate $5,000 to charity.

“The reason there’s an immunity program is to detect what are very, very secretive activities,” said Sheridan Scott, a partner at Bennett Jones LLP and commissioner of the Competition Bureau until last year.

“If you’re coming forward, you have to assist in the investigation, you have to be able to provide evidence and provide witnesses.”

Ms. Scott noted she could not comment on the particulars of the case given “it was basically alive the entire time I was there.”

But in general terms, she added, applicants to the immunity program will only receive immunity if they are the first one in, although the bureau is implementing a leniency program that will reduce the sentences for other witnesses who choose to testify.

“You’re letting people off scott-free. People are not going to be prosecuted and they have engaged in criminal activities. You have to have a huge incentive to bring them forward.”

A letter from the deputy minister of Public Works written in April 2007 – seven months after search warrants were issued in relation to the bid-rigging allegations – praised TPG’s work with the federal government, Mr. Buy pointed out, indicating to him the case was all but dead at that point.

“I should note that your firm has served us well in the provision of engineering technical services. It is also a firm in good standing with our department,” stated the letter, signed by then-deputy minister David Marshall.

However, Mr. Marshall further wrote he had concerns with allegations that TPG was making in public concerning the RFP process.

“On the most serious allegation made, let me assure you that neither the minister nor his staff were involved in the selection process – they were not involved in the requirements specification, in determining the evaluation methodology, nor in the evaluation itself.”

Canada Border Services Agency: 46E29-069331

Firms charged:

  • TPG Technology Consulting Ltd
  • Spearhead Management Canada Ltd.
  • Tipacimowin Technology Inc.

Canada Border Services Agency: 46E29-069503
Firms charged:

  • TPG Technology Consulting Ltd.
  • Spearhead Management Canada Ltd.
  • Donna Cona Inc.

Canada Border Services Agency: 46E29-069427
Firms charged:

  • TPG Technology Consulting Ltd.
  • Spearhead Management Canada Ltd.
  • Donna Cona Inc.

Canada Border Services Agency: 46E29-06719
Firms charged:

  • TPG Technology Consulting Ltd.
  • Spearhead Management Canada Ltd.
  • Donna Cona Inc.

Canada Border Services Agency: 46E29-06718
Firms charged:

  • TPG Technology Consulting Ltd.
  • Spearhead Management Canada Ltd.

Canada Border Services Agency: 46E29-06720
Firms charged:

  • TPG Technology Consulting Ltd.
  • Spearhead Management Canada Ltd.
  • Donna Cona Inc.

Canada Border Services Agency: 46E29-069505
Firms charged:

  • TPG Technology Consulting Ltd.
  • Spearhead Management Canada Ltd.
  • Donna Cona Inc.

Canada Border Services Agency: 46E29-069502
Firms charged:

  • TPG Technology Consulting Ltd.
  • Spearhead Management Canada Ltd.
  • Donna Cona Inc.

Public Works and Government Services Canada

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