Friday, August 21, 2009

Can't We Just Assume?

Government clients can be quite picky when reviewing RFP resonses. If they say something is a requirement, you have to demonstrate explicitly that your candidate satisfies the requirement - often making sure to use their specific buzz words.

But, if they want someone with experience in Object Oriented development, and I've got a senior Java Developer, do I really have to write "Object Oriented"; can't we just assume that they have experience with OO programming since Java is, ya know, totally Object Oriented?

Sorry, just my little rant for this morning. I'm very tired of writing the words "object" and "oriented".

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Resume, Interview Tips and Strategies Discussion Panel

I will be participating in a panel discussion on resume writing, interview tips and employment strategies at Carleton University on Wednesday September 30, 2009, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

The discussion is for students looking to enter the fields of IT, Engineering, Science, Public Affairs or Communications students. I do not know if it is open to the public.

Here are the details:

Wednesday September 30, 2009
6:00 pm
Porter Hall, Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario
It will be a 60 minute Q&A with the five member panel, followed by refreshments and networking.

If you're a student who might be interested in attending, I suggest you contact the Career Development & Co-operative Education Office at 410 Tory Building.

I do not know if they have confirmed all five panelists, so if anyone is interested, let me know and I can pass along the contact information of the person organizing the event.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How to deal with a health-related gap in your resume

Recently, I was helping a friend prepare for an interview. This person had a rather significant gap in her resume which was related to a medical issue (which has been addressed and would no longer effect her ability to work).

Interviewers can be worried about gaps in resumes. It's something that everyone should be ready to address when going in for an interview. The question is, how much information do you give? I'm not a fan of lying in interviews. I find people who are forthright and tackle concerns head-on appear like much stronger candidates than those who try to obfuscate. Still, saying "I was sick for 8 months" isn't going to fill your potential employer with confidence.

Here's how I suggested she handle it: mention that you had a health issue that needed to be addressed, and that you refrained from gaining employment until you were certain that it was taken care of, so that you’d be able to focus 100% on a new job.

The run-on nature of the sentence aside, I'd love to know what people think. I often take the view that there are going to be questions you get for which there are no good answers, and you should do your best, move on, and impress them with your answer to the next question. Still, some things are difficult to just gloss over.

(And, yes, I know that they can't ask you about your health, and I don't recommend volunteering such information, but whether or not you're obliged to tell a potential employer something, sometimes there's just no way around it. My friend couldn't have answered such a question by simply saying, "I wasn't working and that's all the information to which you are legally entitled." Okay, she could have; but that would've moronic.)

New Monitor!

Hey everyone, I have a new 20'' widescreen LCD monitor. If anyone reading this had seen my old monitor, they'd understand why this is so exciting.

Now I'll get back to work.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Really Don't Mean to be a Jerk

The other day, in a discussion with my wife, I learned that a close friend, in her job hunt, tends to do no follow up. If she submits her resume, then hears nothing back, she doesn't contact the company. If she has an interview at a company, then hears nothing back, she doesn't contact the hiring manager.

Basically, her reason for not following up will be one of two things:
  1. The person is really busy, and I don't want to bother him/her; or,
  2. If this person can't even bother to get back to me, I don't want to work for him/her.
Both of these sentiments are completely understandable, however, neither will advance your goal of getting a job.

Okay, okay, this is pretty basic job-hunting advice, and I don't really mean to get bogged down on this, I just thought I'd use it as a jumping off point...

Since I went on vacation at the end of July, lots of new RFPs have come in. We've been spending a lot of time on these, vetting resumes, writing resumes, writing grids, writing proposals, analyzing financial proposals and so on. Consequently, I have not had time to respond to all the kind consultants who have contacted me about job opportunities. And there are about 100 of them, according to my inbox.

So, if any of you are reading this, I just thought I'd say, I'm sorry. I will try to respond to everyone very very soon.

And It's Done

The project that we've been working on for the past few weeks came back from the boss with a few recommended revisions. Those were taken care of pretty easily, and the entire proposal was wrapped up and sent in to the client. Now, we just wait for a response.

The timing of this is pretty good. Last week, one of our main clients sent us a request for six people. Now they've issued another request; this time for seventeen people. That's right, by the first week of September, we have to submit twenty three candidates. On the plus side, we have twenty three qualified candidates. So now it's just a matter of editing twenty three resumes and writing twenty three grids.

Oh, and my supervisor is away for the final weekend of August, so it should be a hectic few weeks. It's good that I got some vacation time in while I could.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Speaking of the weekend...

If you're in Ottawa, you might want to check out the play, Birth. It's about, well, birth. It'll be touching on a lot of topics regarding birth, including breech birth - which is fairly topical right now.

Following each performance, there will be panel discussions, some of which will feature Mrs. JMRecruiting - though the specific ones haven't yet been confirmed.

Here are some of the details:
Birth - A play by Karen Brody
Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday Matinee at 2:30 p.m.

Advance Ticket Prices: (DOOR PRICE: add $5)
Adults: $20
Student/Seniors: $15
Children/Volunteers: $10


Note: While children are welcome, this play is not written for children. Some parts may be frightening, confusing and parents should know that there is swearing throughout the play. Discretion is advised.
If you're interested, I'd suggest clicking over to their web site.

Parkinson's Law

So, a couple of days ago, our project to supply Business Analysts became much easier, seemingly.

But, in accordance with Parkinson's Law, we've decided to add some more elements to our proposal... and, thus, what would have been a pretty laid back week suddenly got a little busy again. On the plus side, the deadline for my part of the proposal is tonight, so it should be a pretty easy Friday, and a lovely lazy weekend (filled with sis-in-law's birthday, a lot of toddler time and some pre-season NFL action... it should be nice).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Green Shoots, Headhunter Edition

Apropos of this post, a few weeks back I got a call from another recruiter in the Ottawa area (you could call him a 'recruiter's recruiter' both because of his recruiting acumen and because he focuses on placements for recruiting and HR positions). Things had been fairly slow in the past few months (especially in Ottawa), but he was starting to see signs of life. There was a new opportunity in Ottawa that he thought might be a good fit for me.

I'm happy at my current firm, so I declined, but it was certainly nice to hear that the recruiting industry (at least in Ottawa) might be picking up.

Now, if employment is a lagging indicator, what does that make employment in the employment industry? Is it like some sort of economic double negative?

One More Thought About Those Business Analysts

In the previous post, I note that our client has altered an RFP so that we only have to submit one Business Analyst instead of four. I'm still confident we can win this bid, and it should mean that we will be able to secure contracts for all four BAs, so (fingers crossed) despite all the excess work, it should all be worth it in the end.

One thing I should mention is that all of our consultants have been fantastic throughout the proposal development phase. I bemoan all the time I lost working on resumes and grids that are no longer necessary, but I do not want to discount the amount of time that they put into this as well. If my time has been wasted, theirs certainly has been, too.

In order to effectively respond to government RFP's, there often needs to be a lot of back-and-forth between the recruiter and the candidate. They're the SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) when it comes to both the professional requirements and their work history. So, if I want to build the best proposal I can, I have to get this information from them. With each of the candidates with whom we were working, we'd trade emails and phone calls to hammer out all the little details to make sure that all the requirements were covered. Each consultant probably did two or three drafts of their resume, as well as little tweaking here and there.

One consultant in particular was really great about this. He sent us a resume reflecting the needs of our client. Unfortunately, it was not satisfactory. I looked through it, and I could tell that he had done (or probably had done) all the things the client was asking for, but it wasn't really spelled out clearly and succinctly in the resume. So I got worried - we didn't have anyone else to present, but this resume would get disqualified if we sent it to the client.

So at about 9:30 Friday morning, I left him a message saying there was a lot of work to be done. He called me back about 20 minutes later, and by 10:30 we were sitting in our conference room going through each requirement project-by-project, taking notes and writing adequate descriptions. For a lot of them, I would have to probe him for more information (what is obvious to the SME is not always obvious to the recruiter or, more importantly, the client). We were both still working on the resume yesterday when the amendment from the client came in.

There are a lot of candidates who would not go through such an arduous process. Often, understandably so. Consultants will have requests to complete these RFPs all the time, and most won't result in winning a contract. Some recruiting firms will ask consultants to fill out the RFP, make the submission, win the contract, then decide to sub-contract to another consultant who won't ask for as much money. If I were constantly going through this sort of thing, I'd probably be reluctant to give a recruiter too much of my valuable time.

Unfortunately, this time commitment is necessary. Things are getting really competitive out there, and clients can be extremely picky about the people they hire. Especially when dealing with government RFPs, we (recruiters) have to be meticulous when crafting proposals; one seemingly minor detail not quite covered can mean the difference between winning and losing the bid.

(At this point, I could go on a rant about why it is so important for recruiters to treat consultants with respect, lest we never be able to properly complete a proposal, but that's not my point right now.)

The bottom line is this: we've been working with four great consultants. They're not just great candidates (which they are), they're also great partners in developing a proposal. They've done a h*ll of a lot of work on this, and I hope that I can reward them all with contracts in the near future.

In the meantime, I can offer them my sincere gratitude.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And All is for Naught

A few weeks ago, a big RFP came out from one of our major clients. They're looking for four Business Analysts, and the contracts will run for one or two years. For our little firm, this is a pretty big contract (sure, we've gone after bigger ones, but recently we've been doing a lot of three to six month single consultant placements).

We've got some really strong BA's that we work with, so we weren't too worried. However, we had a lot of work in front of us (and I missed the first week while I was away on vacation), so at the end of last week and over the weekend I spent a few hours each night working on a couple of resumes (I was up until about 1:30 or 2:00 am on Sunday night/Monday morning). Well, we got an email from the client today.

Don't worry; the RFP hasn't been revoked; they haven't cut the number of BA's they need. They have only cut the number of BA's that need be presented. They need four people, but they're only asking for one resume (one contract will be for the primary BA, and the other contracts are in slightly subordinate roles). So all the work we did on the three weakest candidates was completely unnecessary.

On Sunday, I turned a twelve page resume into a twenty-three page resume. All that was completely unnecessary.

Well, I guess that's not really true. We now have three extra consultants with vastly improved resumes, and I am now that much better at technical writing.

Of course, on the down side (other than the fact that the consultant can now shop that twenty-three page resume to other firms), this means that the bidding will be all the more ferocious and competitive. We would have had four great candidates; not every firm could have said that, but they probably each have one great candidate. We now have to have a fabulous candidate.

Oh well, such is life.