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How Recruiters Look for Contract Candidates

by | Jan 13, 2016 | Recruiter Training, Top Echelon Blog

Recruiters commonly have the false impression that it’s hard to find candidates who want to take on a contract role. This is because they subscribe to one of two common myths:

Myth #1: Only candidates who can’t make the direct-hire cut take temporary, contract-based work.

This is simply not the case. Not only are top-tier candidates choosing contract work over direct-hire jobs, but companies are building a new blended workforce model based around these workers. Contracting is not a last resort for second-stringers—it is a first choice for savvy, talented candidates.

Myth #2: Contract workers are a special, hard-to-find breed of candidate.

Nope. Here’s the honest truth: there is no specific profile for a contract worker. They come from diverse backgrounds and have all kinds of needs, values, and motivations. Sure, there are traits that can make a worker more likely to gravitate toward contract work as a career. So, how do recruiters find candidates that are compatible for contract work? At the end of the day, nearly any candidate can make a great contract staffing candidate. However, before a candidate can become a great contractor, you have to find them. And that leads us to. . .

How Recruiters Look for Contract Candidates

You may find this surprising, but recruiters look for contract candidates using the same methods they would to source any candidate! Social media sourcing, referrals, recruiting network partners, boolean searches, recruiting software with an applicant tracking system for recruiters, and good old phone calls are all viable tools, and you will likely use a combination in your searches. Check out ERE’s Top 10 Candidate Sourcing Best Practices for a quick refresher on the best sourcing tactics.

Okay, you say, but I still want to know the recipe for the secret sauce! Many recruiters say the trick is to concentrate less on locating contract candidates (if the source is strong with you, that part won’t be new) and more on attracting candidates to a contract role.

How To Attract Contract Candidates

The key to attracting contract candidates is the same as it is for any candidate: You have to showcase how the role is the best possible next career move for them.

How do you do that? You have an exploratory career conversation with them, starting with a career needs analysis, and listen closely to what they reveal. Are they looking to expand their skills, or chafing under a poor cultural fit? What motivates them? What is their biggest career frustration?

Once you know your candidate’s priorities, determine whether they could be a fit for the role. If so, your next step is to highlight the aspects of the contract role that they will value most. Below are some common employee frustrations and how contract work can address them:

  • “I’m no longer learning new things or sharpening my skills.”

Contract work is a great alternative for candidates who want to push their comfort zones, gain exposure to new technologies and industries, and keep their skills up-to-date. Each project will likely require a slightly different skill set, and contractors can strategically pursue roles that will strengthen their resumes.

  • “I feel underpaid for my current role/responsibilities.”

Contractors can have higher earning potential than their direct-hire counterparts. They are often brought on to fill an immediate need, which means companies are willing to pay a premium. Also, they typically get paid for every hour worked and more for overtime hours, which is a big upside.

  • “My work-life balance is overbalanced on the ‘work’ side, and I need more flexibility.”

Many employees need a little more “life” in the equation, for various reasons. Contracting can offer the flexibility they need with more convenient work hours, remote work options, and time off between assignments.

  • “I’m feeling stifled, and I need more challenging work.”

Contractors are often brought in to take on critical, time-sensitive projects, which can satisfy the need for challenging work. Contract workers make an immediate impact, and are free to pursue the next challenge as soon as a project-based contract ends.

  • “There are no opportunities for me to advance here.”

LinkedIn cites this as the number one reason workers left their jobs in their 2015 Global Job Seeker Trends report. If you can show them how the contract role will advance their career, both in the short term and the long run, they will be much more likely to consider it. This is where a deep understanding of the job description makes a big difference—you need to be able to discuss concrete skills, experiences, and competencies the assignment will offer your candidate.

  • “I’m worried about jumping ship for a new role with no idea how the culture will fit me.”

Culture fit is a big deal for employers and employees both. In fact, LinkedIn’s report found that not knowing what it’s like to work at an organization is the top obstacle for candidates who are considering a change. A contract-to-direct assignment can give the candidate time to assess whether the organization is a good long-term fit. If it’s not, they can leave at the end of the assignment and try another.

  • “I don’t feel like I ‘own’ my career.”

Through contracting, workers can take true ownership of their careers. They have the ability to switch roles and industries as they choose. They don’t end up with a negative “job-hopping” stigma, instead becoming more valuable with time and added skills.

  • “It’s difficult for me to be tied down by one employer and location.”

These restless workers most benefit from the opportunity to travel and take assignments in different locations. Also, due to the greater flexibility of contracting, they likely won’t feel “tied to the office” during their assignments like they would with a direct role.

Address Any Lingering Doubts

By now, you’ve presented the contract assignment in the light that matters most to your candidate. They’re intrigued . . . but maybe still a little hesitant. There can definitely be a fear factor involved with contract staffing, and it’s usually due to a few common misconceptions. Here are the top two fears and how you can dispel them:

  • “I’m worried about leaving a stable job for a contract role with an end date.”

In some ways, contract work can actually be more secure than a so-called “steady job,” since contract workers are not trusting their livelihood to one employer alone. Contractors can plan their career moves proactively, not reactively. With a contract assignment, they usually have a general idea of when it will end and can plan ahead (with you, their trusted career adviser!) to line up their next assignment. They won’t be caught unawares by a rash of lay-offs or the next recession.

  • “I can’t afford to take on a role that doesn’t offer benefits.”

If you place your contractors through a back office employer of record service, such as Top Echelon Contracting, Inc., they will have access to a great contract employee benefits package. This includes medical insurance, so they will be able to meet the Affordable Care Act’s coverage requirement. Offering a contract candidate benefits can make or break the placement, so be sure to make this clear early on.

Final Thoughts

Finding contract candidates can seem daunting, but it is essentially the same as finding any kind of candidate. Closing the placement really comes down to one thing: knowing what value the role holds for a candidate, and presenting that value in a way that appeals to the candidate’s needs and motivations.

Are you wondering about the flip side of this equation–talking about contracting with your clients? 

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