The Eagle Blog

How Contractors Can Hurt Their Marketability

…OR Improve Their Chances of Getting a Job!

I had an email today from a contractor who was disappointed with Eagle. He has applied for several opportunities with Eagle’s clients and despite his obvious talents has not even been called for any of these roles.

His “obvious” conclusion was that something must be broken in Eagle’s recruiting process if we can’t identify him as a great candidate for the roles he has applied for. It was even more disturbing to me when I looked at his resume and he has “expertise” in Human Capital Management solutions … which would suggest that he should know something about the staffing industry.

To net it out his complaint is that … we are not buying what he is selling, and somehow that is our fault.

The staffing industry is a high paced, ultra competitive world. It is critical find great candidates to meet our client’s needs and to do that we need to be fast, provide good quality candidates and do so in a very cost effective manner.

There could be any number of reasons why a candidate does not get called for an order, but here are just a few of them:

1. The client identifies a candidate even before the opportunity has finished its cycle … this means that it is possible some jobs are posted to the internet and the job has already been filled. Administratively it can take a little time to catch up to these … but obviously we are not going to be calling more candidates.
2. We identify a candidate(s) that we know very early in the process … meaning that we will not be calling more candidates.
3. We identify candidates that we have not worked with previously however we have interviewed them and reference checked them. These are steps we need to complete before presenting candidates to our clients and therefore pre-screened candidates will always be given preference to those we have not met.
4. We identify many candidates for an opportunity and don’t need to call more.

In addition to these very common situations, sometimes candidates don’t help their own cause:

5. Some candidates will apply to lots of different jobs, with different skills. Rightly or wrongly this can give an impression that they are just desperate to get a job and will likely not be qualified.
6. Some candidates will “harass” the recruiters about jobs which impedes their ability to do their jobs. Those people will not rise to the top when jobs are open … human nature.
7. Some candidates have resumes that do not adequately describe their experience and capabilities. A poor resume is really going to hurt a contractor.
8. Sometimes resumes and covering emails/letter just don’t ring true. When you look at hundreds of resumes a day and something doesn’t look right then it is quickly discounted.

Recruiters are always going to work with people that they are most comfortable with. That will start with people they know well, through people they have developed a rapport with, to people that come with good referrals and finally to people who have outstanding credentials that show well.

I always suggest to professional contractors that they find a few good agencies/recruiters and develop a relationship with them. It doesn’t take much, communicate and let them know who you are and what you are looking for. Be responsive to interviews and references and keep in touch.

It is not too hard and it will increase your chance of success!


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26 thoughts on “How Contractors Can Hurt Their Marketability

  1. 9. Sometimes the client knows the candidate already and has a “do not re-hire” note in their file.

    In this situation, is the staffing agency allowed to inform the candidate that this is the case?

  2. 9. Sometimes the client knows the candidate already and has a “do not re-hire” note in their file.

    In this situation, is the staffing agency allowed to inform the candidate that this is the case?

  3. It is my experience that most recruiters will try to “shy away” from a tough conversation like that … just human nature. There are always a number of reasons why a contractor will not get the job and its easier to say someone else was chosen than the client doesn’t want you.

    I would encourage honesty. Clients are entitled to hire the people that they want to hire … as long as their reasons are legal. It is better for the contractor to know that they have burnd a bridge … although they should probably know that already.

    It is also worth noting that agencies also have their “do not re-hire” flags. Our reputation is tied to the performance of the contractors that we place with clients. If we are not comfortable, for any one of many reasons, then we will choose to not work with them. Again … recruiters are reticent to acknowledge this because it can lead to a tough conversation. I think its better to just be up front.

  4. It is my experience that most recruiters will try to “shy away” from a tough conversation like that … just human nature. There are always a number of reasons why a contractor will not get the job and its easier to say someone else was chosen than the client doesn’t want you.

    I would encourage honesty. Clients are entitled to hire the people that they want to hire … as long as their reasons are legal. It is better for the contractor to know that they have burnd a bridge … although they should probably know that already.

    It is also worth noting that agencies also have their “do not re-hire” flags. Our reputation is tied to the performance of the contractors that we place with clients. If we are not comfortable, for any one of many reasons, then we will choose to not work with them. Again … recruiters are reticent to acknowledge this because it can lead to a tough conversation. I think its better to just be up front.

  5. “Clients are entitled to hire the people that they want to hire … as long as their reasons are legal.”

    Interesting point. I assume you are referring to laws against employment discrimination.

    Do discrimination laws apply to contractors?

    If a client (a corporation) engages a staffing agency (another corporation) to find a contract worker (yet another corporation) does the law against employment discrimination apply when the “hiring” decision is made?

    “I’m sorry, but the client won’t engage your services because: you’re too old/ you’re disabled/ you’re from the wrong ethnic group/you’re the wrong sex/you were born in the wrong country/ you practice the wrong religion”. That would be a very “tough conversation” indeed.

  6. “Clients are entitled to hire the people that they want to hire … as long as their reasons are legal.”

    Interesting point. I assume you are referring to laws against employment discrimination.

    Do discrimination laws apply to contractors?

    If a client (a corporation) engages a staffing agency (another corporation) to find a contract worker (yet another corporation) does the law against employment discrimination apply when the “hiring” decision is made?

    “I’m sorry, but the client won’t engage your services because: you’re too old/ you’re disabled/ you’re from the wrong ethnic group/you’re the wrong sex/you were born in the wrong country/ you practice the wrong religion”. That would be a very “tough conversation” indeed.

  7. Absolutely, discrimination laws apply to contractors like everyone else.

    I have never heard of one of our clients suggesting a contractor was not a fit for those discriminatory reasons. Of course they would be stupid to voice those concerns, often we don’t even hear why a contractor was chosn or not … despite attempts to get feedback.

    The “tough conversations” are with the contractors that we have bad experiences with … they bailed early on a contract, they held us or our client to ransom, they did bad work, they caused us too much grief for a variety of reasons.

    There are also a number of cases of severely fraudulent resumes that have cropped up in recent years. Resumes that look like those will be treated very sceptically, in other words we would choose someone else rather than take a chance. It is easier for a recruiter not to have those conversations.

  8. Absolutely, discrimination laws apply to contractors like everyone else.

    I have never heard of one of our clients suggesting a contractor was not a fit for those discriminatory reasons. Of course they would be stupid to voice those concerns, often we don’t even hear why a contractor was chosn or not … despite attempts to get feedback.

    The “tough conversations” are with the contractors that we have bad experiences with … they bailed early on a contract, they held us or our client to ransom, they did bad work, they caused us too much grief for a variety of reasons.

    There are also a number of cases of severely fraudulent resumes that have cropped up in recent years. Resumes that look like those will be treated very sceptically, in other words we would choose someone else rather than take a chance. It is easier for a recruiter not to have those conversations.

  9. “There are also a number of cases of severely fraudulent resumes that have cropped up in recent years.”

    Another interesting point. Are clients starting to demand certifications or other formal qualifications? Or is work experience still the dominant factor?

    Personally, I have met PMPs (to cite one example) that I wouldn’t trust to manage my kid’s birthday party, never mind a large IT project, so I am a certification skeptic.

  10. “There are also a number of cases of severely fraudulent resumes that have cropped up in recent years.”

    Another interesting point. Are clients starting to demand certifications or other formal qualifications? Or is work experience still the dominant factor?

    Personally, I have met PMPs (to cite one example) that I wouldn’t trust to manage my kid’s birthday party, never mind a large IT project, so I am a certification skeptic.

  11. I think that certifications are still relevant to hiring managers, but generally good experience with strong references trumps a certification. Having both is the ideal.

    My reference to fraudulent resumes was much more dramatic than falsified credentials. We do education checks for many of our clients, plus security checks etc.

    What some of our competitors ran into at a major bank was a group of “testers” who were hired, seemed to have good credentials, interviewed well and actually did the work. It turned out that their resumes were almost a total fabrication … if you printed them off and looked at them you saw immediately the same write-ups but for different clients, many of the same patterns etc. They were even references for each other in a tangled web!

    We have since identified a few of these groups … so we segregate their resumes and flag them as highly suspicious. In the throes of a search it is highly unliely a recruiter would take a chance with these people.

    I think certifications are good, they provide for continuing education, they may add some technical capability and they show a person is serious about their work. Having a certification on its own is really no guarantee that a person can do the job … so I think you should entrust your kid’s party to someone with experience (you?). 🙂

  12. I think that certifications are still relevant to hiring managers, but generally good experience with strong references trumps a certification. Having both is the ideal.

    My reference to fraudulent resumes was much more dramatic than falsified credentials. We do education checks for many of our clients, plus security checks etc.

    What some of our competitors ran into at a major bank was a group of “testers” who were hired, seemed to have good credentials, interviewed well and actually did the work. It turned out that their resumes were almost a total fabrication … if you printed them off and looked at them you saw immediately the same write-ups but for different clients, many of the same patterns etc. They were even references for each other in a tangled web!

    We have since identified a few of these groups … so we segregate their resumes and flag them as highly suspicious. In the throes of a search it is highly unliely a recruiter would take a chance with these people.

    I think certifications are good, they provide for continuing education, they may add some technical capability and they show a person is serious about their work. Having a certification on its own is really no guarantee that a person can do the job … so I think you should entrust your kid’s party to someone with experience (you?). 🙂

  13. Wow. Call me naive, but I had no idea that groups of individuals were collaborating on fake resumes.

    I am competing in the marketplace with these people, so when you nail them I’ll be cheering you on!

  14. Wow. Call me naive, but I had no idea that groups of individuals were collaborating on fake resumes.

    I am competing in the marketplace with these people, so when you nail them I’ll be cheering you on!

  15. As a candidate you are ENTITLED by PIPEDIA to access any records kept on you and this INCLUDES notes not to hire you. I suggest that all candidates make a formal request for your file if you are worried that you have been blacklisted by a recruiter. Recruiters must comply to these requests and failure to do so is terms for a law suit. Make sure you know your rights.

  16. As a candidate you are ENTITLED by PIPEDIA to access any records kept on you and this INCLUDES notes not to hire you. I suggest that all candidates make a formal request for your file if you are worried that you have been blacklisted by a recruiter. Recruiters must comply to these requests and failure to do so is terms for a law suit. Make sure you know your rights.

  17. Yes of course Canada’s privacy legislation (PIPEDA) ensures your right to access information about you anywhere.

    My advice if you think an agency has you flagged as DO NOT USE, is to ask. Many recruiters will avoid telling bad news if they can … but if you ask a direct question they should tell you. If you think their answer is evasive then you can send a request to the company privacy officer to see your file.

    Most agencies really don’t want to flag people as unusable because it limits their candidate pool, so usually they need a good reason (in their mind) to do this. At Eagle it might be because of behaviour we feel is unprofessional or unethical, it might be because the candidate has extremely poor communication skills or because we are suspicious about their resume/skills/experience etc.

    Again, an agency can choose to work with a contractor or not … the contractor can choose to work with an agency or not. The contractor has a right to know what is in their file.

  18. Yes of course Canada’s privacy legislation (PIPEDA) ensures your right to access information about you anywhere.

    My advice if you think an agency has you flagged as DO NOT USE, is to ask. Many recruiters will avoid telling bad news if they can … but if you ask a direct question they should tell you. If you think their answer is evasive then you can send a request to the company privacy officer to see your file.

    Most agencies really don’t want to flag people as unusable because it limits their candidate pool, so usually they need a good reason (in their mind) to do this. At Eagle it might be because of behaviour we feel is unprofessional or unethical, it might be because the candidate has extremely poor communication skills or because we are suspicious about their resume/skills/experience etc.

    Again, an agency can choose to work with a contractor or not … the contractor can choose to work with an agency or not. The contractor has a right to know what is in their file.

  19. Well, I do not wish to defend the fake resumes.
    But sometimes recruiters post fake jobs, the jobs they expect in the future but they actually do not exist.
    I would wish that integrity would go to both ways.
    This was one reason I quit full time position – not to play corporate games.

  20. Well, I do not wish to defend the fake resumes.
    But sometimes recruiters post fake jobs, the jobs they expect in the future but they actually do not exist.
    I would wish that integrity would go to both ways.
    This was one reason I quit full time position – not to play corporate games.

  21. Hello Kevin:

    Thank you for being so open about these things.

    I have a bith tougher question for you and it has to do with fees a.k.a “cuts”.

    I find that it is outrageous for agencies to charge anything more than 15%. When you look at the workload – I have to work for my 85% while the agency does do some (often not a lot if any???) up-front work on the bid and afterwards they just process the payments and invoices…

    I recently had a conversation with a representative of a bodyshop from Toronto, wher she said that they do not even do grids for GoC submissions. And she would not disclose teh cut they were to take.

    Obviously I did not want to work with them. But my question is – is this the reason for blacklisting a consultant?

    Thanks in advance!

  22. Hello Kevin:

    Thank you for being so open about these things.

    I have a bith tougher question for you and it has to do with fees a.k.a “cuts”.

    I find that it is outrageous for agencies to charge anything more than 15%. When you look at the workload – I have to work for my 85% while the agency does do some (often not a lot if any???) up-front work on the bid and afterwards they just process the payments and invoices…

    I recently had a conversation with a representative of a bodyshop from Toronto, wher she said that they do not even do grids for GoC submissions. And she would not disclose teh cut they were to take.

    Obviously I did not want to work with them. But my question is – is this the reason for blacklisting a consultant?

    Thanks in advance!

  23. Thanks for your questions … obviously there is a lot here so I’ll try my best.

    Most larger clients will not deal directly with independent contractors due to employment law. What they do is to shortlist a group of suppliers usually through a rigorous RFP process. The “short list” can be anything from a couple (sometimes there is only one) through to lists like the Ontario Government VORs which have something approaching 200. The agencies incur costs to win those contracts and commit to practices that provide their clients with more value, such as preferred pricing, reporting requirement, discounts, extensive screening etc. etc etc. All of that costs money and the supplier has had no business yet.

    The client expects to pay a price for a candidate (bill rate) and the candidate expects to be paid a rate for their services (pay rate). The difference between these can be expressed in margin or mark-up or plain dollars, but represents the amount an agency makes on the deal.

    This amount will vary for any number of reasons … based primarily on business conditions. The amount that a client is willing to pay is to cover both (a) the market rate of the contractor and (b) the agency’s fee. Often contractors view this as the agency taking a “cut” out of their pay, while agencies believe they are earning their fee and the “market rate” is what the contractor should focus on. I would suggest that an agency rate of 15% relatively low, depending upon circumstances. Of course that could be different if you found your own contract and introduced the agency to the opportunity.

    One of the things I learned early in my career is that if I worried about what the person next to me was making I would always be unhappy. This is a similar situation … if a contractor adopts the mindset that the agency is taking money out of his/her pocket then I will never change that mindset, the contractor will be forever disgruntled and nobody wins.

    Here is my advice to you …

    1. Build a relationship with several reputable agencies, that you can feel compfortable with. Ask them the hard questions about their fees.
    2. Focus on understanding your value in the market and understand if you are being paid fairly from that number.
    3. Once you have accepted a contract then focus on doing your very best job … if you learned lessons through the negotiation process then use them next time.

    Back to your question … all agencies will have their own policies around contractors they “blacklist”. We will flag contractors for unethical behaviour (such as playing games with rates/leaving contracts early etc, poor performance at a client site), and any reason that we deem to indicate someone our company does not want to represent.

    If you think this company has blacklisted you then ask them … you are entitled under privacy laws to see your record with them, if you follow a reasonable process.

  24. Thanks for your questions … obviously there is a lot here so I’ll try my best.

    Most larger clients will not deal directly with independent contractors due to employment law. What they do is to shortlist a group of suppliers usually through a rigorous RFP process. The “short list” can be anything from a couple (sometimes there is only one) through to lists like the Ontario Government VORs which have something approaching 200. The agencies incur costs to win those contracts and commit to practices that provide their clients with more value, such as preferred pricing, reporting requirement, discounts, extensive screening etc. etc etc. All of that costs money and the supplier has had no business yet.

    The client expects to pay a price for a candidate (bill rate) and the candidate expects to be paid a rate for their services (pay rate). The difference between these can be expressed in margin or mark-up or plain dollars, but represents the amount an agency makes on the deal.

    This amount will vary for any number of reasons … based primarily on business conditions. The amount that a client is willing to pay is to cover both (a) the market rate of the contractor and (b) the agency’s fee. Often contractors view this as the agency taking a “cut” out of their pay, while agencies believe they are earning their fee and the “market rate” is what the contractor should focus on. I would suggest that an agency rate of 15% relatively low, depending upon circumstances. Of course that could be different if you found your own contract and introduced the agency to the opportunity.

    One of the things I learned early in my career is that if I worried about what the person next to me was making I would always be unhappy. This is a similar situation … if a contractor adopts the mindset that the agency is taking money out of his/her pocket then I will never change that mindset, the contractor will be forever disgruntled and nobody wins.

    Here is my advice to you …

    1. Build a relationship with several reputable agencies, that you can feel compfortable with. Ask them the hard questions about their fees.
    2. Focus on understanding your value in the market and understand if you are being paid fairly from that number.
    3. Once you have accepted a contract then focus on doing your very best job … if you learned lessons through the negotiation process then use them next time.

    Back to your question … all agencies will have their own policies around contractors they “blacklist”. We will flag contractors for unethical behaviour (such as playing games with rates/leaving contracts early etc, poor performance at a client site), and any reason that we deem to indicate someone our company does not want to represent.

    If you think this company has blacklisted you then ask them … you are entitled under privacy laws to see your record with them, if you follow a reasonable process.

  25. A couple of posts ago the writer referred to the practice of posting fake jobs. That is not a practice that most reputable agencies will do.

    Having said that, most agencies WILL try to anticipate client needs, when they know a project is coming. These postings typically will suggest the client “will be looking for” or some such wording. These are usually good, early opportunities that reflect the agencies knowledge of the client. I would think your chance of success with these would be even better than for reactive postings.

    Agencies will post many of the jobs that they get, but very often because of the speed of this industry by the time it is online, you have read it and expressed interest the agency may have found a perfect candidate. Candidates may get frustrated with this and assume the job never existed, but speed can be everything in staffing.

    What agencies love is when contractors keep them abreast of their availablity … it just makes everybody’s life easier.

  26. A couple of posts ago the writer referred to the practice of posting fake jobs. That is not a practice that most reputable agencies will do.

    Having said that, most agencies WILL try to anticipate client needs, when they know a project is coming. These postings typically will suggest the client “will be looking for” or some such wording. These are usually good, early opportunities that reflect the agencies knowledge of the client. I would think your chance of success with these would be even better than for reactive postings.

    Agencies will post many of the jobs that they get, but very often because of the speed of this industry by the time it is online, you have read it and expressed interest the agency may have found a perfect candidate. Candidates may get frustrated with this and assume the job never existed, but speed can be everything in staffing.

    What agencies love is when contractors keep them abreast of their availablity … it just makes everybody’s life easier.

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