Friday, December 17, 2010

Steve, Mark and Jim: Who Made 2010’s Nice List

The holiday season is upon us and 2010 is wrapping up. As we look back on the year, it is evident that 2010 was a big year for technology. So who were the top contenders this year? Who managed to make techies “Nice List?”
  • Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, took the tablet market by storm, introducing the ever so powerful iPad in January 2010 and landing it on everyone’s 2010 wish list. In just four months, the iPad achieved $ 1 billion in sales. Couple that with the iPhone 4 release, generating $ 3.25 billion in sales between April and June and I think it’s safe to say Jobs belongs on the list.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, reached 500 million active users on Facebook at the same time “The Social Network”, a story based on Zuckerberg’s success, took the box office by storm. In one month, users collectively spend over 700 billion minutes on Facebook, making the 2010 social networking market at the tips of Zuckerberg’s fingers.
  • Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, introduced the ever so powerful Playbook in the later half 2010, setting its release for early 2011. Consumers are oozing with anticipation for an iPad rival and developers are working hard to create competing applications, kicking 2011 off with Playbook fever.
  • Andrew Mason, CEO of Groupon, an increasingly popular coupon/discount site, has generated immense success in a very limited amount of time. Groupon has added approximately 30 cities a month in 35 countries, accumulating over 40 million subscribers. In addition, Mason just turned down a $6 billion dollar offer from Google making him one of the most courageous business men of 2010.
  • Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile, has become one of Toronto’s newest hometown heroes. His company has created a partnership with Microsoft to launch 500 applications for the Windows Phone 7 operating system through to 2011. Over 7 million people in more than 100 countries are using applications powered by Polar Mobile’s SMART platform, making Polar a leader in the industry.
  • Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, a mobile service that encourages people to explore the cities in which they live, is somebody to watch out for in 2011. In 2005, Crowley had his first mobile social service acquired by Google. His new venture, Foursquare, has a team of 16 employees but has over 760,000 users checking in – making them a small but mighty force.
How can 2011 compete with a year where the iPad and Playbook became common words in our everyday conversations and Mark Zuckerberg became a global icon? Where do we go from here? Who else do you think belongs on 2010’s “Nice List?”? Better yet, who will make 2011’s “Nice List”? Let us know your thoughts! We here at Stafflink, hope you made the “nice list” this year and wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

Related Articles:
Welcome to Toronto, Silicon Valley North
Top 10 IT Skills in Demand in 2010
The Job Market Longtail

Written by: Michelle De Rubeis, Technical Recruiter, StaffLink Solutions Ltd.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ho Ho TO!

Happy Holidays! StaffLink is proud to be a sponsor of HoHoTO, a Toronto fundraising event for the Daily Food Bank. HoHoTO is about getting together to decrease poverty and hunger amongst the citizens of Toronto. Not to get all glum and earnest on you but HoHoTO is about helping feed people:
  • In Toronto, people just like you made more than a million visits to food banks last year.
  • Food bank use is growing – up 15% nationally in 2010 over 2009.
  • More than 34% of the people relying on food banks in the GTA are children
  • The median monthly household income in Toronto is only $1,000.
Hunger in the GTA is caused by a lack of money not a lack of food. And that’s why HoHoTO was created — to help the Daily Bread Food Bank with desperately needed funds.

The first HoHoTO event was created two years ago through Twitter where it was conceived, organized and sold out within nine days. HoHoTO has recognized by Queen Raina of Jordan and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone in this 48 second video:

To purchase tickets or make a donation go to Tickets will sell out quickly!

Enjoy the holidays! I'll be smiling and enjoying time with family. I wish you and your families a restful and joyous holiday season.

Tim Collins

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How to Handle Behavioural Interview Questions

Have you recently shown up to an interview feeling fully prepared to prove that you would be the best person for the job?

You thought you had it all figured out and had come prepared to tell the interviewer why you would be a perfect fit for the position.

However, when you sat down and the interviewer started asking you questions about your past work-related behaviour, it threw you off your game. You were not prepared and could not remember examples of your behaviour in past jobs. Who knew that the way you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker on your IT team several years ago would be pertinent in obtaining a new position?

Behavioural interview questions have become widely popular with interviewers. This is when an interviewer asks you a question where you are required to describe a specific example of past work-related behaviour. This technique is so popular that today it is rare to go through an entire interview without being asked at least a few of these types of questions.

The reason is that employers believe past work-related behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour. If you could convince a team to work on a project they were less than thrilled about in your last job, then you could probably be a great Team Leader today.

Here are some tips on being successful at answering behavioural interview questions:

Show You Are Competent:
There are no right or wrong answers to behavioural interview questions, although there are definitely certain competencies and skills that employers are looking for when they are analyzing the behaviours you describe in your answers.

The best way to answer successfully is to think about what types of behaviours and competencies that the employer is looking for in the specific role and then come up with examples where you have demonstrated these in your past jobs.

Be Prepared:
Go through the job posting and do your research on the company. What does the company value? If the job posting is looking for someone with proven customer service skills, then come up with an example where you successfully dealt with a difficult customer in the past. If it says they value organizational skills, then they may ask you to talk about a time where you had a lot on your plate and had to prioritize.

If you take the time to think about the role, then it will not be too difficult to pinpoint some of the questions that may be

Stay On Topic and Answer the Question:
Get to the point. Have a game plan on how to answer behavioural questions in general. First, describe the situation, then how you reacted and why, and finally, describe the result, or what your actions accomplished. Do not go off on tangents or get off topic. Make sure you answer the question that is asked and try not to be too long winded when doing so.

Prove You Can Do the Job
Behavioural interview questions are a great way to prove that you are the right person for the job. They can be prepared for easily and allow you to demonstrate that you have the reactions and competencies necessary to be successful in a role. So be prepared and embrace your chance to be direct. Be ready to prove that you have previously used and demonstrated the skills that the job requires.

Although behavioural question can be difficult to answer on the spot when unprepared, they should be easy to predict, related to the job, and an advantage for someone who has the proper qualifications.

Written By Dan Leibner

Friday, November 19, 2010

10 Reasons I Jumped on the Wordpress Bandwagon

I’m building a new Wordpress-powered version of Our current site is okay, but Wordpress could bring us to a whole new level. Actually it’s become a bit of an obsession for me.

The seed was planted about a year ago when my colleague Ryan Ayres told me about Wordpress. I wasn’t ready to take the plunge at the time. But since then I've been building little Wordpress sandbox sites to play with and learn.

I’m not the only one jumping on the bandwagon. According to Wordpress stats, there are over 32 million WordPress publishers as of November 2010.

The magic of Wordpress is that it enables anyone to create a dynamic corporate website very quickly and fairly easily depending on how much customization you want.

Something for everyone. It’s not just a blogging platform. It’s a full-fledged content management system. It can be a do-it-yourself web development tool for non-designers and non-coders. Or you can extend Wordpress by building your own templates, plugins and widgets. In either case your site is powered by the amazing open source PHP and MySQL based Wordpress platform.

Top ten reasons I Love Wordpress

  1. It’s revolutionary. With Wordpress anyone who knows a little HTML and CSS can put up a dynamic business website in a few weeks (except for me apparently :-).
  2. Open source. Its continuously improving thanks to a huge community of developers lead by Wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg.
  3. You’re in good company. NYTimes, Ebay, Yahoo, Ford, SmashingMag, Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, Sony, Samsung, Playstation and Wired all have Wordpress sites.
  4. Easy to install. is famous for the 5-minute installation. (It took me quite a bit longer the first time).
  5. Community support. Numerous sites like , and offer tutorials, tips and reviews.
  6. Templates. Wordpress enables you to style your website automatically with a huge selection of free and premium design templates.
  7. Plugins. Get a free plugin for almost anything: social media , backups, caching, security, mobile integration.
  8. Widgets. Drag and drop elements to build your sidebars and footer.
  9. Documentation. The Wordpress Codex is fully searchable and meticulously maintained by a dedicated development community.
  10. It’s Free! Take advantage of all of this awesomeness for free. Really. I know. It seems too good to be true.
I am so excited to launch a Wordpress powered version of I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime if you have any Wordpress tips to share you’ve got my attention. I’ll be happy to try to answer your questions too!

Written by
Laura Upcott
Stafflink Solutions Ltd.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Sparkle in a Room Full of Diamonds

Phones are ringing, calendars’ are booked and recruiters are drinking more coffee -- it can only mean one thing… job openings! The good news? The job market is turning around. The bad news? The competition is fierce.

The amount of well qualified candidates looking for new opportunities is tremendous. So how do you stand out in a group of front runners? How do you make your mark? More specifically, how do you prove to prospective employers, that you are the one worth investing in? When the competition is close and many applicants fit the position, the best thing you can do is find a way to shine.

Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to stand outside an employer’s office with a stereo above your head singing a song to the hiring team. I am simply asking you to put in that extra effort.Not sure where to start? Not a problem. I’ve started a list of some creative ideas that will help you make your mark. Test a few out and see what you can add.

1) Watch Your Manners: Reaching out for a handshake, remembering names and saying thank you can go a long way. Manners not only demonstrate your professionalism but they make employers feel valued.

2) Find Shared Interests: Look around the employer’s office – what is hanging on the walls? You can tell a lot about a person’s interest by their office environment. If you see a fishing picture, strike up a conversation about your last fishing trip. Maybe everyone can do the job but not everyone can listen to someone talk about their eight hour fishing expedition.

3) Promote Yourself: If you look through your office, chances are you have a few promotional items from various companies. Why do they do this? So you remember them! Whether it is creating your own portfolio, blog/website or handing out a personal business card – find a way to promote your personal brand.

4) Snail Mail: In today’s fast-paced environment, an email may seem like the most appropriate form of communication to send a thank you letter. It’s fast, quick and convenient. However, if you want the job – convenience should not matter. Yes, it is true that most employers will want to receive a thank you letter within 48 hours of your interview. So why not express post a hand written thank you letter? Snail mail (that isn’t a bill) always catches my attention.

5) Sizzle in Style: One of our very own Stafflink employee’s used this trick. He wore a baby pink dress shirt to stand out among the sea of black suits. Whether it’s wearing your favourite red dress or sporting that bright bold tie, find something in your closet that helps give you that extra punch. Some people might be taken back if you show up in a bright orange suit, but a bright purple tie just might make you the perfect amount of memorable.

Not every idea will suit everyone. Pick something that feels comfortable and honest. The point is to find a way to show your personality, passion and drive to prospective employers. If you are truly passionate about a position, demonstrate that passion and there will be no stopping you. As a wise philosopher once said, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius.

Do you have any tips for standing out in the crowd while you're searching for a job? Please share your strategies in the comments.

Related Articles:
What Should I Wear to an Interview for a Job?
10 Job Networking Strategies to Consider if You're a Newcomer to Canada
Build an e-Resume Portfolio Site with WordPress
How to Land a Job in 7 Seconds
What's Your Superpower?

Written by: Michelle De Rubeis, Technical Recruiter, StaffLink Solutions Ltd.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

IT Resume Template: Optimize Your Resume for Job Boards and Recruiters

I see hundreds of resumes a week so I really appreciate a well formatted resume that enables me to quickly skim to the information I need to know. Here’s an IT resume template that is optimized for job boards and looks good to recruiters too.

Keyword Resume Template

Tips to Balance Keywords with Readability

1. Highlight your accomplishments. These differentiate you from other candidates. It’s even more impressive when your tie your accomplishments in with your job experience.

2. Keyword dumps don't work. You may be tempted to try to trick the search engines into putting your resume at the top of the list by dumping a load of keywords on the first page. When I see a keyword dump and no real experience on the first page of a resume I assume that this person is not qualified.

3. Highlight specific capabilities within your description of each job in your Employment Experience section. Describe the technical skills, communication skills, organizational skills or management abilities you demonstrated in that role.

What did I miss? Please comment and share your resume writing tips.

Related Articles:

Tim Collins

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Independent Contractors FAQ about Retirement Savings and RESP

I’ve had quite a few questions lately about retirement and education savings. If you are a self-employed independent contractor – incorporated, sole proprietor or partnership – then saving for your retirement or your children’s education can be a little more complicated.

Many employers offer a Group Savings Plan to arrange for regular income deductions that are automatically contributed to a personal RRSP or RESP. Employer group savings plans are great if you're a permanent employee for a company that offers one. But what are your options for retirement and education savings if you work for yourself?

I’m not a financial planner myself so I put your questions to Michael Collins, a financial planner who manages the group plan for our internal staff and also my personal investments. Did you notice that we share a last name? Yes, we're related. Michael Collins just happens to be my Uncle Mike. Here are Mike’s answers to some frequently asked questions from independent contractors.

  1. As an independent contractor (incorporated, sole proprietor or partnership) how do I save for my retirement?

    Independent Contractors, if they have income through earnings (not dividends) are allowed 18% per year to a maximum of $22,000.00 they could put into an RRSP. If they are behind or starting in later years of life they might qualify for another method of deposits (Individual Pension Plan) where they could put in significantly more, but must meet certain criteria to qualify.
  2. Are Group Plans available for independent contractors?

    Your Financial Planner should have all the required documents to set one up and yes I do those also.
  3. What is the maximum I can invest in RRSP/RESP?

    18% on income can be put into RRSP to a maximum of $22,000.00 for this year.
    RESP is $5000.00 per child annually but only $2,500.00 each get the 20% government grant added on.
  4. Is there any carry over if I haven't invested in the last 5 years?

    RRSP's – yes, the full qualifying amount of 18%/year of earnings (in any amounts desired) which are not used can be carried on to age 71. On an RESP you can catch up the full qualifying amount also but only by using two years in any one year.
  5. What is the tax credit for RESPs?

    There is no tax credit, but they do grow tax free.
  6. Can I invest in an RESP for someone outside of my immediate family? A cousin, nephew or niece?

    Yes but the parent must sign off on it so that there isn't a doubling up of credits or government grants.
  7. How much would my child need to invest if they are going to university in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years?

    There are tables available to help with this question, but assumptions have to be made on Interest Earned and the costs associated with which University they wish to attend or the type of program they are taking, whether 4 year Arts or a 7 Year Doctorate.
If you have more questions for Michael Collins here's how to contact him:

Micheal Collins
Dundee Wealth Management
2225 Kingsway Drive, Kitchener, N2C 1A2
519-579-5477 phone
519-744-5506 fax
Click this link to watch my video

Suggestions for Further Reading:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Welcome to Toronto, Silicon Valley North

A tech revolution is taking off right here right now in Toronto. What does that mean for you and me? It means exciting work opportunities and fierce competition for creative technical talent.

Why are companies such as EA, Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Disney, Facebook, Twitter and Google partnering with and buying Toronto tech companies?
  1. Excellent People – Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook says it best, "We have not once bought a company for the company. We buy companies to get excellent people."
  2. Great Schools – Toronto has access to a wealth of talent being produced in schools like Waterloo (Masters Program in Technology Entrepreneurship), University of Toronto, Sheridan College, Queens University, and many others which have world renowned Technology and Engineering programs.
  3. Community – Toronto has a community of young tech entrepreneurs who are building word class companies and networking at camps, informal meetings and through social media sites like Sprouter.
  4. Government Tax Credits – SR & ED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development). “SHRED” gives millions in stimulus dollars to small and medium sized businesses. CEO of Polar Mobile, Kunal Gupta, says he “briefly looked at outsourcing to India or China but between the talent and the tax credits, we realized it was cheaper to do it in Toronto.”
  5. Extreme Labs creates an environment for developers to build companies and follow their dreams. They run a very cool training program for young entrepreneurs who are given $5000 and during a 12 week session create products that are presented to a group of VC’s and investors (Dragon’s Den Style). The three companies that were successful last year raised 1.5M.
  6. Funding – Money is becoming more available to entrepreneurs. Companies such as Tech Capital, RBC Ventures, Blackberry Partners Fund, Extreme Venture Partners and Growthworks are investing millions in technology startups.
  7. New Devices – This tech trend has staying power. Smart phones are selling more rapidly than PC’s. Tablets will gain market share as the price point comes down over the next 6 months. Apps are driving sales of these devices.
Let’s look at some of the recent amazing success stories of Toronto companies:
  • Polar Mobile – 6 million downloads of their apps – Sports Illustrated, Time, Food Networks, CNN, CBS, NCAA Sports, and 500 new apps to come for Microsoft
  • Five Mobile – custom apps for Rogers, Disney and Sony Pictures – one of their apps for the The Score has over 6 million downloads
  • Rypple – just raised 7M – their software integrates smartphones and office email
  • Extreme Ventures – invested in 14 tech start ups – 250 staff – one of their companies BumpTop recently sold for a rumoured 35M to Google
  • Sysomos – allows corporate clients to analyze Twitter and Facebook conversations – sold last summer for 35M
  • Endloop – fantastic app called iMockups that gives developers a template for developing apps on an iPad – all object oriented
Toronto is an exciting place to be right now if you have an entrepreneurial spirit and you’re interested in app development. We are fortunate to have a number of these companies as our clients.

Action Points

  • Talk to us about the possibility of working for one of these companies. Email us at
  • Join the conversation and network with entrepreneurs. Join Sprouter, a Twitter-like community for startups and entrepreneurs, and answer the question “What are you working on?”
  • Read more about the tech revolution in this November 2010 Toronto Life Feature Article "Download My App" posted by Kunal Gupta of Polar Mobile:

Written by Tim Collins

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Should I Wear to an Interview for a Job?

Your appearance, your smile and your handshake create that all important first impression. You know what they say--people form a lasting impression within 20 seconds of meeting you. I've also read that people know in the first 20 seconds whether they would be willing to hire you. The first impression has very little to do with your words and a great deal to do with your attitude, energy and appearance. Why not tip the scales in your favour with a great outfit.

I was struggling with what to blog about this week when I stumbled upon this awesome little video from Harry Rosen. Harry Rosen caters to men but I think the principles apply to everyone. Even if the office you are interviewing at has a business casual dress code you still need to take special care with choosing what to wear to the interview.

With few exceptions you should dress more formally for an interview than you would normally dress when you go to work. The care you take with your personal appearance implies respect for the employer and interest in the job.

But please don't feel like you have to run out to Harry Rosen and spend $1000 for a new suit! You can put together a great outfit for a much lower price if you shop around a bit. You might have to invest a few dollars in tailoring and dry cleaning to make the outfit look perfect, but it will be worth it.

So here's the video for what it's worth!

Related Posts:
Five Tips to Stay Motivated During the Job Search
How to Land a Job in 7 Seconds
The Hidden Job Market: How Tim Got In!
Interview Dos and Don'ts

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Comparing Apples to Berries: 4 Reasons Why I Pick the PlayBook

As a self-proclaimed “crackberry”, I was thrilled when Mike Lazaridis announced the arrival of the Blackberry PlayBook. As a Wilfrid Laurier Alumni, I have seen the excitement that RIM has brought to the town of Waterloo, Ontario and Canadian’s in general. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t spent a few afternoons playing with Apple’s “PhotoBooth” application or playing with my friend’s iPhones. However, I’ve spent more time napping with my Blackberry, admiring the flurry of RIM buildings on Columbia St, attending career fairs at RIM Park and BBMing my friends when I spot our local celebrities Mr. Balsillie or Mr. Lazaridis out for lunch.

So why would I rather purchase a PlayBook than an iPad?

1) Flash Flash Flash
Although Steve Jobs has made a gallant effort at eliminating Flash, I think it is here to stay. Flash is a wonderful tool and Blackberry embraces it. Virtual training, tours and demos are just some of the capabilities that Flash makes easier. In addition, Adobe has integrated Adobe Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR apps on the PlayBook. This creates a large opportunity for PlayBook application development – how exciting!

2) Video Conferencing
The corporate crowd will appreciate this functionality. With iPad’s lack of camera, the PlayBook takes the cake on this one, providing users with two cameras and an HDMI hook-up. Need I say more?

3) The Specs
Some would criticize the PlayBook for its size (7 inches compared to the iPad’s 9.3 inches). I think the smaller size provides a perfect balance of convenience and readability. Plus for a small package it sure has impressive hardware. The PlayBook sports a dual-core 1GHz processor (the iPad only has a single-core) and 1GB of RAM (double what the iPad packs).

4) Local Support
Why wouldn’t I support the products that my friends and family help produce? RIM employees are my hometown heroes. RIM has provided over 26,000 jobs to Waterloo residents. Many of my classmates specifically attended school in Waterloo in hopes to score a job with RIM. As a Canadian, I feel an obligation to cheer on the efforts of a company that has completely transformed a local economy.

Whether you want to attribute my love of RIM product’s to the years I’ve spent in Waterloo, the endless job opportunities they have provided my friends or the plain fact that they make a magnificent product – I am and will always be a fan of the “Berries”.

Related Articles:
Who Do You Love? Blackberry Torch or iPhone?
Top 10 IT Skills in Demand 2010
Love What You Do
Why Is It So Difficult to Unplug From the World

Written by: Michelle De Rubeis, Technical Recruiter, StaffLink Solutions Ltd.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sole Proprietor vs Incorporation for Independent Contractors

As a self-employed independent contractor you're an entrepreneur and a risk taker. You control your destiny by developing your skills, producing exceptional work, expanding your networks and building a personal brand. If you add excellent communication skills to your repertoire then businesses will compete to hire you and you'll have more work than you can handle.That's why some people choose entrepreneurship, because they feel that the rewards outweigh the risks.

How do you know when it's time to get incorporated? Here are some points to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of incorportating your business:

1/ Cost
One of the biggest advantages of sole proprietorship is that setting up and administering the business is comparatively easy and inexpensive. It costs $1000 or more to incorporate your business depending on who you hire to assist you with the process.

2/ Liability
One of the main advantages of incorporation is limited liability. A sole proprietor assumes all of the liability for the company. As a sole proprietor your personal assets, such as your house and car can be seized. As a shareholder in a corporation, you are not responsible for the debts of the corporation unless you have given a personal guarantee.

3/ Corporations Carry On
Unlike a sole proprietorship a corporation has an unlimited life span. The corporation will continue to exist even if the shareholders die or leave the business.

4/ Tax Credits
Income tax rates are lower for Corporations than for personal income. Using tax planning, the tax burden can be reduced by earning income through a Corporation, due to the lower corporate tax rates.

5/ Income Control and Tax Deferral
If you are incorporated, you have options to determine when you personally receive income from your corporation. Being incorporated allows you to report your income at a time when you will pay less tax. You may be able to realize tax savings if you receive your income at a time when you are in a lower tax bracket or if taxes have fallen.

6/ Income Splitting
With a Corporation, there exists the opportunity to pay shareholders salary, dividends or a combination of the two. Your spouse and/or children could be shareholders in your corporation giving you the opportunity to redistribute corporate income to family members with the lower incomes taxed at a lower rate.

7/ Perception
Some people perceive corporations as being more stable. Having Ltd., Inc., or Corp. as part of the company’s name may help you attract business.

8/ Paperwork
Incorporation brings with it extra accounting and paperwork. Corporations must maintain minute books, corporate bylaws. Other required corporate documents are register of directors, the share register and the transfer register.

9/ Non-Calendar Year Ends
Corporations have the ability to choose their year end and not be restricted to a calendar year-end as with a Sole Proprietorship. This opens up the possibility of bonus deferrals. Choosing a year-end may be better for year-end paperwork filing should your business be busy at the end of the calendar year. By incorporating you can choose to have your year-end fall during a slow period.

I‘ve outlined some of the advantages and disadvantages of incorporation versus sole proprietorship but what’s the bottom line? Is getting incorporated worth it or not? I recommend that you discuss your personal situation with your accountant and lawyer before deciding.

Further Reading:
Business Registration in Ontario
How to Incorporate Your Business
10 Job Networking Strategies to Consider if You're a Newcomer to Canada
3 Resume Publishing Tools to Pump Up Your Job Market Value

Written by: Tim Collins

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Diary of a Delusional Laptop Shopper

Sometimes you get what you pay for. At least that was true for me when I bought some new laptops for our office last week. Maybe you fall into one of these categories:

  • Bargain Hunter: You want a decent system for a great price.
  • Power Ranger: You want the fastest, most kickass system money can buy.
  • Empowered Consumer: You want a quality system with excellent support.
  • Apple Devotee: You just march into the Apple store and pick the sexiest Mac your credit card can handle.
  • DIY Ninja: You build your own computers from scratch with components ordered online from a secret network of suppliers.
Me? I thought I was a power ranger but a recent mistake proves that I’m more of a delusional bargain hunter.

I've purchased many Dells over the past 15 years and until recently I was an enthusiastic cheerleader for Dell. Over all our Dell computers have been quality machines that lasted many years without issue. I've rarely needed to call for technical support. But with the last two Dell laptops I purchased I've noticed a change in the quality of their customer service. On two occassions an automated solution Dell offered us was buggy and usuable with our system. So I'm ready to take a chance with another brand. Here's my story:

It’s my lucky day. It’s back to school season, computers are on sale everywhere and I need to replace some old computers at the office. I'm in Staples shopping for a geometry kit when a shiny Acer laptop catches my eye. I check out the specs: 2.2 GHz Intel processor, 4 GB memory, video cam and OMG it's only $399! It's way more computer than the Pentium IV Dells I bought 5 years ago for less than half the price I paid then. What a steal!

A sales rep approaches me at that moment. He has me at "hello." But when he mentions that Staples services their computers on site I'm really sold. Two days later I proudly present new Acer laptops to our recruiters.

Red Flag 1: One of the Acer keyboards freezes. It seems to be a "one-off" so we reboot and carry on.

Red flag 2: The other Acer freezes three times in one day. I bring the repeat offender back to Staples. The rep who originally sold me is there. I'm in and out of the store within 15 minutes carrying an identical replacement Acer. Problem solved, or so I thought.

Red Flag 3: I read Joe Stoll's blog “How a $400 PC from Future Shop for Your Business Can End Up Costing You Double.” Uh-oh.

On the weekend I notice that The Shopping Channel is offering special build of Dell Inspiron Laptops for $699. I’m mesmerized by the rainbow of glossy colours they come in. So tempting. But I decide to wait and see what happens with the Acers.

On Tuesday the replacement Acer freezes several times. Maybe I should buy those Dells from The Shopping Channel after all? My staff selects colours-I'm a bit iffy about the purple. A voice of wisdom (Tim Collins) warns me not to buy the Dells until after I return the Acers to Staples.

When I march those defective Acers back into Staples that evening, Todd Roberts, a divisional sales manager, is there to help out. He takes the Acers back without batting an eye. Then he refers me to his #1 sales guy who up-sells me (of course). You get what you pay for right?

I’m an easy mark but it feels like a win-win. After experiencing Staples' excellent customer service with the defective Acers, and knowing that they do most of their repairs onsite, I feel okay about buying HP Pavillion DV6's for $699. I’m impressed with the technology team at Staples (Dundas and Winston Churchill, Oakville). Even when they made mistakes they took responsibility for fixing them. Time will tell but so far it looks like my story has a happy ending.

This morning Todd drove all the way from Staples Oakville to our office in downtown Toronto and personally delivered two gorgeous new HP laptops to our office. So far so good. Our recruiters love their new HPs.

What’s next if my rosy relationship with Staples and HP changes for the worse? I might be forced to become a DIY Ninja and build my own computers from scratch. How hard can it be?...ya right =)

Related Post: Got any old computers lying around?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

7 Ways Technical Tests Sabotage the Hiring Process

Do technical tests actually weed out the best candidates? Poorly designed tests can alienate candidates and cause you to reject the candidates with the greatest potential. My purpose here is to examine the common pitfalls of technical testing that may be sabotaging your hiring process.

As an IT recruiter you can't be an expert in every technology out there. How do you ensure that IT candidates really understand the technology and have what it takes to do the job? Technical skills testing, right?

Believe me, I wish it was that easy. Unfortunately technical testing for job screening is not as objective and accurate as it appears. Here are seven things to keep in mind when you use technical testing for job screening:

1) Test results don't reflect what it really takes to be successful on the job. Consider the intangible qualities that your most valuable technical employees bring. Are you looking for someone to help your team develop an innovative technical solution? Creativity, team-work, analysis and synthesis of existing solutions, out-of-the-box thinking, and dogged determination may be essential job requirements that won't be reflected in the test results.

2) Technical tests reinforce out-dated stereotypes. We all know the myth that technical people (techies, geeks, gurus) have brains that work like computers. Computers follow rules. Programmers, developers, analysts and architects figure out how to hack, collaborate, stretch and extend the rules to create new solutions. Programming is a literacy skill and an art. It takes both sides of the brain to do it well. The most in-demand technical gurus I meet are generous and driven creative problem solvers with extensive communities of peers in their field. I've yet to see a test that evaluates how a coder utilzes both sides of her brain to create new applications or extend a platform in new directions.

3) Badly worded questions. Some tests have ambiguous questions with multiple correct answers. But the anwser key only accepts one particular response. Sometimes the test taker knows more about the technology than the test writer/marker. The test taker might propose an alternative solution that the marker doesn't understand so it's marked wrong.

4) The test is out-dated. The test may not be up-to-date with the current state of the technology. Responses that were valid when the test was written a year ago may be incorrect now. A typical example of this is when a tester asks a job applicant to debug a piece of programming. A variety of solutions are possible but only one is known to the tester. So when the test taker proposes a solution that is up-to-date with current best practices his response is marked incorrect.

5) Irrelevant questions. Some tests ask people to define obsure technical terms. If you need to know the definition of a term while you're on the job, you'll just go to the knowledge base and look it up. When people develop technical solutions on the job they usually have free reign to reference any resource they need. People don't memorize manuals. Why bother when it changes every time the technology get updated?

6) The test taker might not take the test seriously. Imagine this: You're an in-demand developer who's spent years building a career in your field. You're at the tailend of a contract project you've been with for about 6 months. It's 9:40 am and you've just finished an interview for a job you don't really need. The interviewer asks you to take a technical test. Sure, no problem, but they're waiting for you back at your current project. So you flip the test off as quickly as possible and high-tail it out of there.

7) Test-taking anxiety. Before I ventured into IT staffing I was a teacher so I've seen the effects of test anxiety first hand. Many people freeze in test situations yet they are very capable of performing in normal working conditions. These people will seldom ask for accommodations but they may have excellent experience and qualifications for your role.

How do you determine when technical testing is appropriate? Consider these questions: Does this job require someone who can develop a new solution or push out the boundaries of an existing solution? Then you might want to put more emphasis on the candidate's reputation, references and experience (portfolio) when evaluating them for the job.

Does the test reflect the way people really work? Is the test up-to-date? Does the test allow for multiple solutions? Do you have a technical person who can back up the test results with a face-to-face technical interview?

I'd love to hear about your experiences with technical testing.

If you liked this article you might also be interested in reading:
Technical Interviews: A Survival Guide for Recruiters

Posted By Tim Collins, President and Founder,
Stafflink Solutions Ltd

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What Motivates You at Work?

Does motivation come from within or can it be created with external incentives like money, recognition and career advancement? It's a key question for employers and employees. Motivated employees are happy employees which is good for business. So it's in everyone's best interest to create a work environment that motivates people to give their best.

Money is a big motivator for many people. But if you're living comfortably and can afford a few extras like beer or Callaway Woods, money loses some of it's pull. I'm motivated by money too, but I'm also motivated by helping people. That's why I write these blogs. It's the reason I enjoy staffing. I truly enjoy connecting employers with talented people who want to work for them.

Every person I place in a new job has the best intentions to make a valuable contribution. It's that adorable honeymoon stage. Everyone involved catches the fever and works a little harder. But how do you keep that energy and motivation going? Soon or later reality sets in. Maybe personalities conflict or the job becomes routine.

Does it have to be that way? I've noticed that some people maintain enthusiasm for their job long after that first blush of excitement. What does it take to motivate you to keep giving your best even after the reality of the job sets in?
  • Performance-based bonuses?
  • Flexible work hours?
  • Opportunity for career advancement or promotion?
  • Working with and for people you trust and respect?
  • Opportunity to learn on the job, training and skill development?
  • Opportunity to help others?
  • All of the above?
Did I miss something? If I was your employer, what could I do to help you stay motivated and committed to doing a great job?

Please share your ideas in the comments, or take a minute to respond to my poll at


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Posted By Tim Collins, President and Founder,
Stafflink Solutions Ltd

Thursday, September 2, 2010

10 Job Networking Strategies to Consider if You're a Newcomer to Canada

Newcomers to Canada frequently ask me how to get a job in their field. I wish I had a magic formula. You found your way to Canada. I'm sure it wasn't easy. You bring with you a treasure trove of knowledge, experience and potential. You also bring a determination to make a contribution and a fresh perspective that our economy needs.

I've seen countless people succeed in the same situation that you find yourself in now. So it is with sincere admiration that I offer these suggestions. I trust that you will find your way to the work experience you are seeking. And in the process you will enrich your community.

I talk to many newcomers who are established as highly-demanded professionals in their field. Usually I'm trying to recruit them for a job. At least 70% of our placements are people who've immigrated to Canada. How did they do it? Luck? Connections? A well written resume? Here are a few ideas you could consider in your quest to jump start the next leg of your career.

  1. Reach out to people you know who've come to Canada and landed in good jobs. Ask them how the did it.
  2. Informational interviews. Arrange to meet with people who are currently working in your field, not to ask for a job, but to ask for advice on how to break into the marketplace.
  3. Participate in blogs and usergroups in your field. Make comments. Answer questions. Provide technical advice. Seek out opportunities to demonstrate your expertise and help others.
  4. Mine LinkedIn. Complete your LinkedIn profile including a friendly photo. Network to find others on LinkedIn that you might know through a friend. Link to your personal blog/website or portfolio from your profile. Join special interest groups that are related to you field. Participate actively by starting discussions and commenting on other people's discussions. Promote others.
  5. Participate in professional networking events like camps and meetups to get to know people working in your field.
  6. Offer a free trial run of your services (aka volunteer work or and an internship) to entice people to give you a chance. This creates a Canadian reference for your resume. You don't need to mention on your resume that it was volunteer work.
  7. Create a personal website to market your services. Use it as a platform to showcase your expertise and find work. Tell your story of coming to Canada - people love stories and they might be inspired to help you. Include a "Hire Me" or "Work with Me" link to tell people how to hire you. Add a jazzed up version of your resume or portfolio.
  8. Blog about topics of interest to potential employers/clients and people in your field. Publish your articles on your personal website and broadcast links to your blogs on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and and special interest groups where people with your skillset (including potential employers) hangout.
  9. Communication skills. It's the one requirement you see on nearly every job description. If you find that people have difficulty understanding you in conversation, check out for information about free language instruction program in the Greater Toronto Area.
  10. Be Persistent. Creating a personal brand is hard work. As you implement the above strategies you'll be "self-employed". That entrepreneurial spirit is popular with employers these days - especially startups and technology firms. Eventually you'll connect with an employer who will be delighted to hire you.
Please share your tips for getting established in a new job market. Did I miss anything? What works for you?

See also

Posted By Tim Collins, President and Founder,
Stafflink Solutions Ltd

Thursday, August 26, 2010

3 Resume Publishing Tools to Pump Up Your Job Market Value

We avoid printing paper resumes. It's not only about saving trees. An online resume or portfolio is so much more engaging and revealing. It's searchable, it doesn't pile up on your desk and it's easy to share. Plus, a well-designed online CV or portfolio gives us a window into your work ethic, professionalism and abilities. It's like staging a house before you put it on the market. If it's done well it increases your market value and creates demand for your work. The potential employer will be excited to meet you.

You can make your professional profile sing - literally. Show off your technical skills and work experience with photos, video and slide shows. Showcase projects you've been involved with. Best of all, you can share your resume/portfolio through email, job boards and social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Here are three tools that might help you land that next job or contract:

My Resume by Elegant Themes

Nick Roach's designs are polished and elegant. He offers a cost-effective shortcut to a professionally designed personal website or online portfolio. Set up can be time consuming but it's worth it because you get access to the endless possibilities of the Wordpress platform with Nick Roach's beautiful designs. I'm amazed a the value you get for a yearly fee of $39 - a catalog of premium designs including several portfolio designs plus an online business card template. Potential employers will be impressed.

Cons: Set up may be time consuming depending on your level of technical skills.

: ElegantThemes works on top of Wordpress - a free, open source publishing platform available at You need to register a domain name, sign up with a web host and install Wordpress to take advantage of the ElegantThemes designs. Basic web development skills (HTML, CSS, FTP, image editing) make set up easier. FAQs and an active members forum are available if you need help.

JobSpice Resume Builder

Easy to use, cost-effective and fast to set up. Over 30 professionally-designed styles are available to format your resume. Recommended by PCWorld, Fast Company and Mashable. Basic access is free. For $20/year you can export your resume to PDF, publish it at your own personal URL and add privacy controls.

: You can't include images, slide shows, video or hyperlinks so the end result looks like a nicely formatted traditional paper resume.

Difficulty: Easy - if you can use a word processing program you'll be fine.

VisualCV Online Multimedia Resume

Enables you to set up an Internet-based multimedia resume including work samples, charts, video and images. Your VisualCV will have a unique website address. It's free to set up a basic VisualCV. For $59.95 you can customize the URL and create multiple CVs plus some other features.

Cons: The formatting is a bit cookie-cutter but it's customizable and the final result is impressive.

Difficulty: To quote VisualCV: "Rest assured that you don't have to be a Web guru to create and share your own VisualCV. In fact, the VisualCV editor makes it a snap to tweak text, add multimedia elements, and rearrange pieces of your VisualCV. And sharing your VisualCV is as easy as clicking a link and telling us who you want to share with."

Bottom Line

I'm a Wordpress fanatic so is my favourite option. But ElegantThemes involves a steep learning curve unless you have web development experience. VisualCV is a great option if you want to rock your resume with multimedia elements but you're not ready to set up a Wordpress site. JobSpice is good choice if you want to get your resume up in a hurry and you don't need all the multimedia bell and whistles. A JobSpice Resume might be a good interim solution while you set up a fancier site.

Please let me know if you have another online resume publishing solution to recommend, or if you have experience with any of the options I mentioned.

Stayed tuned...a tutorial to help you get started with the ElegantThemes "My Resume" option is in the works!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Got Any Old Computers Lying Around?

We recently discovered eight old PCs lying around collecting dust in our server room. We couldn't throw them to the curb. What to do? As usual our neighbour Richard from eSubnet knew the answer. He takes his old computers and printers to reBoot Canada for recycling.

reBOOT Canada is a national charity which accepts donations of computer equipment. After refurbishing the equipment as much as possible, reBoot distributes it to non-profit organizations and individuals with limited access to technology. reBoot also provides training and technical services to their clients.

When I called reBoot to find out if they would accept our old computers I was surprised (shocked actually) to learn that they a charge a handling fee to take back the equipment. Wasn't I doing them a HUGE favour just by driving across the city and delivering our precious old computers in support of their lucrative recycling business? Actually, no. The patient woman who took my call helped me to see the error in my reasoning. The truth is that reBoot is doing me a HUGE favour by keeping those poison monitors out of landfill where they leach toxic materials into the soil and groundwater. Also, reBoot is providing access to jobs, technology and training for people who need it but can't afford it. My shock suddenly transformed into gratitude.

How much does it cost to drop off your equipment at reBoot? (reBoot has a pick up program too.)
  • $5 - computers, printers, scanners, fax machines & all-in-ones
  • $10 - servers / $15 - cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors
  • $30 - TVs, large printers & copiers
I paid reBoot $160 to recycle our old PCs. But that's a bargain considering everything reBoot is giving back to me and my community. And reBoot will send you a tax receipt for your donation. That's more than a fair exchange IMHO.

Before you donate those relics it's a good idea to erase your data from your equipment. Just deleting the data is not enough. Make sure to erase your hard drive so your info is really deleted. You can find a free program to do that at

For more information:
reBoot Canada:
How to Dispose of your old PC

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who do you love? Blackberry Torch or iPhone

The Blackberry with it's fast and easy push email stole my heart about 10 years ago. I've been faithful ever since. But I have to admit that the iPhone with its good looks and two hundred thousand apps has caught my eye. Is the Blackberry Torch sexy enough enough to keep me from straying?

I recently watched April Dunford debating the merits of the Blackberry vs. the iPhone on CBC's the National. The Blackberry is technologically far superior to the iPhone according to Dunford but (and this is a big "but" :) it lacks the "cool" factor. The Blackberry's key advantages according Dunford are:
  • Qwerty key board makes email easy - she types 30-40 emails on a 35 minute subway ride
  • Real time communications with great instant messaging (BBM)
  • Durability - her Blackberry has survived many tumbles
Dunford adds that the vast majority of the applications on the iPhone are a bit silly. She has all the business applications she needs on the Blackberry. I agree with all of these points and would like to add that my Blackberry never drops calls.

No doubt you can do way more cool things on the iPhone if you're into music apps. The iPhone has a higher resolution screen (but not as a high as the resolution on the Motorola Android Milestone phone my wife sports), a more user-friendly operating system (although the Torch will change that), and a better camera (for now). Clearly it will impress your friends when you arrive at the party with an iPhone in hand (if your friends are designers and musicians ;). But for business communications I still think the Blackberry is untouchable.

The Torch's Blackberry 6 web browser with WebKit rendering finally makes browsing the web on a BlackBerry an enjoyable experience according to a review. While the new browser is far superior to the version on previous Bla A faster processor is planned for future versions. So the Torch promises to provide the best of both worlds - a great business communication device combined with fast internet browsing.

Bottom Line: While the iPhone has revolutionized the way we use smart phones, the Torch is still the better choice for business communications. The Blackberry is more of a person to person device that excels in communications such as voice, email, text, BBM, Twitter, and IM. The Torch is pretty cool with it's awesome slide out keyboard, killer email, touchscreen, upgraded camera and the highly anticipated Blackberry 6 Operating System. But the iPhone sexier, offers slightly better internet browsing and a better camera.

It all comes down to your priorities. Do you want the coolest phone or the best phone for business communications? I agree with, the Torch puts RIM back in the game for smart phones. I'm still a Blackberry lover but I've got my eye the iPhone and Motorola's Android phones are pretty awesome too.

What do you think? Should I stick with Blackberry or is it time to switch?

April Dunford debating the merits of the Blackberry vs. the iPhone:

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Posted By Tim Collins, President and Founder,
Stafflink Solutions Ltd

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's Official - Stafflink Has a New Address

Today we take possession of our new space at 20 Bay Street. This is Sunday of the August long weekend so we won't actually start working there until Tuesday. But we've moved our stuff and turned in our keys so there's no turning back.

Naturally we'll miss some of our favourite things about the old office. We'll miss our next-door neighbour Richard from eSubnet who saved our butt when he patched us through to his Internet connection when Bell was down. We'll miss the fresh veggies from the St. Lawrence Market which used to be just across the street from us. But we outgrew our space at 120 Front. Its time to move forward for many little reasons and three big reasons: design, reception and location.

The Rostie Group, our new landlord, owns the 11th Floor of WaterPark Place where our new space is located. We'll have access to a beautiful shared reception area with a full-time receptionist to greet our guests. Anyone's who's interviewed with us at 120 Front knows that this is a big improvement. And imagine, a real human will answer our calls, at least during office hours. Wow!

The location is more convenient too. It's less than a 5 minute walk from Union Station. Plus we have a better view. Our new office overlooks the Air Canada Centre and you can see Lake Ontario from the reception area.

I appreciate the much needed break we're getting this August long weekend but still I can't wait to walk into our new office on Tuesday morning and say 'hi' to the receptionist. Who will be the first candidate to meet us for an interview in our new space? Maybe we'll share a glass of champagne with you (alcohol-free of course).

Tim Collins, President and Founder,
Stafflink Solutions Ltd

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Logo, New Office Space...What's Next?

Stafflink has a new logo! We're moving to a new office space on August 1st. It just seemed like the right time to update our logo.

After 8 years at 120 Front Street we're emerging from the recession stronger and more motivated than ever. We're moving to 20 Bay Street (same phone numbers). We love the new location - a three minute walk from Union Station and across the street from Captain John in the Queens Quay.

Naturally a new address means new business cards. We hired Dave Collins who exceeded our expectations in every way. He took our tag line - We link people with opportunities - and created an iconic image with layers of meaning. At first I thought it looked a bit like a chain link. Then I noticed two people meeting, maybe at an interview. Very clever Dave. Thanks!

New logo, new office space, what's next? I think the time has come to redesign our website. I'm planning to merge our website at with our blog and move the whole thing to Wordpress. Another big move. But change is good.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving” - Albert Einstein

Dave Collins designs more than business cards and logos. Here's a 2 minute video showcasing his work. You can find him at

2010 Reel from Dave Collins on Vimeo.