Article by: James Vallone - Director of Business Development
Have you ever interviewed a contractor and realized that something you just said caused them to be noticeably less interested in the job? Interviewing IT contractors is very different than interviewing perm candidates. There are a lot more land mines to look out for. Contractors think and act differently during their job search. To successfully engage IT contractors, you must be fully aware of what’s on their mind at all times and tailor your conversation to their agenda.
Begin by understanding that a tech contractor’s job security is based on weeks or months, not years. Typically, contractors are not as interested in long-term career development at your company (unless it’s a contract-to-hire position). They will want to focus more on the specific challenges and expectations of the project at hand. Contractors also greatly value their independence and will view the employer on a peer-to-peer basis (or service provider to client basis) rather than an employee/boss relationship. They are chameleons, fitting into different cultures and becoming members of teams for temporary periods. Many are contracting with more than one company at a time, so time is their chief currency.
To keep contractors fully engaged during the interview process and interested in your opportunity, here are some important things to pay attention to during the interview:
1. Don’t be vague about the contract length. Let’s say the contractor asks you how long the contract period will last. You waffle and admit that you are not exactly sure or give a wishy-washy response. What does the contractor hear? They hear that maybe you’ll consume far more time than the contractor wants to commit to this engagement or, conversely, that you may not provide a long enough engagement to make it worth it for them.
- Advice: Always be specific about both the estimated minimum and potential timeframes so they can feel more secure about the engagement.
2. Don’t disclose the specific contractor pay rates you are willing to pay. First off, if you’re working with a staffing firm, redirect any questions the contractor has about pay rates back to the agency. It’s the agency’s responsibility to address this. If no agency is involved, it is still not in your best interest to specify rates early on the process. Why? Because if you throw out the rate first, you may risk being too low and turn them off. He or she may decline your contract on the spot without taking the time to explore if there is room for negotiation. On the other hand, if your rate is higher than what the contractor expects, then they’ll hold you to this rate and you may end up paying more than you needed to.
- Advice: Ask the contractor to provide their pay expectations first so you can establish more control during negotiations.
3. Don’t discuss your overall budget in too much detail. Any talented IT contractor will want to work for a company that has a solid and reasonable budget in place for staffing. However, they do not need to know exactly what your entire budget is. Communicating that you have a significant budget in place will certainly prove to the contractor that IT is an important initiative for the company. But the contractor may leverage this information against you and inquire as to why you’re not paying them more. And, of course, disclosing a budget number that is very low will have the obvious impact of stirring up concern about the commitment to IT spend.
- Advice: Use adjectives, not numbers, to discuss the financial context such as, “We have a solid or healthy or strong budget in place for this department.”
4. Don’t make promises about contract-to-perm conversions. Some contractors may inquire about a potential conversion to permanent hire. They may ask because they are interested in converting to perm, or they are really looking for a permanent position, or because they are not interested in a permanent position altogether. It is really important to understand where this question is coming from before you provide an answer.
- Advice: Ask the contractor first about their interest in becoming a permanent employee. If you find they are ideally looking to be converted to perm, give them a realistic timeline of when the job could convert, but be honest and explain that any conversion would be based on the contractor’s performance during the contract period and that this is not guaranteed.
Remember, it’s your job to sell the contractor on the great opportunity they have to work at your company. You will always be competing with other employers and must differentiate your opportunity. Avoid these common interviewing obstacles and keep the interview hyper-focused on the selling points to attract the best IT contractors.
Engineering is such a specific industry where experience, education, and background are some of the top things to look for in a candidate, and certain companies won’t hire a candidate if those three categories are not up to par. However, the alignment of those categories should not be the only determination in moving forward with a candidate. That would be a huge mistake and can cause serious repercussions. Practice Manager Samantha Epstein explains in VentureBeat how recruiters and hiring managers alike can fully evaluate engineering candidates and ensure there is a mutual fit for the position and the company.
VentureBeat: If you’re an engineering hiring manager, chances are you have a list of technical questions that are your gold standard for evaluating potential hires, right? Technical ability is imperative, of course. But are you getting the talent you really need? Hiring managers make the mistake of leaving it up to HR or the CEO to keep tabs on the hiring landscape. You can’t afford to do that anymore.
In the article, Samantha has highlighted four key recommendations for hiring managers who are looking to hire top talent, including:
- Know the hiring landscape. - It’s absolutely essential that, as a hiring manager, you understand the hiring conditions in your market. As the boss of the people you hire, finding the right person to hire impacts you more than anyone else.
- Up your game. - How fast are you able to hire? If your competitors are hiring in five days, and it takes your company 15, you are going to lose the opportunity to hire top talent. Be aware that, like you, the best candidates are simultaneously interviewing more than one company.
- Sell your company. - No, you don’t have to be a salesperson; you do have to let your passion for your company shine through. Why do you love working for the company? Talk about it. What has enhanced your own career here the most? Candidates are looking for challenges they can thrive on. What are you offering that will do that?
- Ditch the script. - Every interview is unique and situational. Toss your script and instead use a guided conversation. In fact, move the interview out of your office and go grab a cup of coffee with the candidate. Then talk.
You can read Samantha Epstein’s full article here on VentureBeat: 4 tips to help you hire engineers in a world where devs hold all the cards
Companies generally like to work with other companies that know their industry and have a strong background with desirable contacts within their field. The staffing industry is no different, which is why working with a specialized staffing firms can give you a significant edge over generalized staffing firms.
When it comes to IT staffing firms, things can often get pretty technical, as you would imagine – but that doesn’t mean hiring an IT staffing firm should be difficult. Our very own Director of IT Contracting James Vallone and Executive Leadership of Contracts Ben Sanborn provide guidance and tips on how to select an IT staffing firm, as seen in InformationWeek.
InformationWeek: One question we are often asked is, "What are the advantages and disadvantages of partnering with a specialized IT staffing firm versus a generalized staffing firm?"
Understanding the pros and cons can help you find a firm that most closely meets your specific staffing needs. Generalized staffing firms are often large, national firms with recruiters that typically work remotely. They staff all types of roles and positions and do not focus on a specific discipline. They have broad talent sources called staffing generalists. They can be experts at staffing large volumes of roles and, for companies that focus on quantity vs. quality of hires, they make routine, high-volume staffing convenient. If we compare them to the healthcare world, they would be general practitioners.
James and Ben have identified a few of the differentiators between generalists and specialists in IT staffing, that help businesses determine if a firm is right for you:
- Are they local?
- Do they have people that specialize in current technologies or are they IT generalists?
- How long have they existed?
- Are they active in the community, do they hold meet ups, do they participate?
- Do they speak your language and can they hold a conversation with you on the technology?
- Do they listen and understand your needs?
- What is their reputation in the industry?
- Do they have a sourcing strategy or are they just fishing from the same pond?
- Do they make it easy for you to staff?
- Are they a full service provider?
You can read James Vallone and Benjamin Sanborn’s full article here on InformationWeek: 10 Tips: How To Select IT Staffing Firms
Companies and professionals have three routes available when hiring: contract, contract-to-hire, and permanent. Contract is when an individual is engaged to work for an agreed amount of time with no intent for permanent employment. When the contract ends, the individual moves on to other jobs. Contract-to-hire is when a person begins work as a contractor with the intention that after a set amount of time, the role will become permanent. And lastly, permanent is when an employee is brought on immediately without any contract period.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of work engagement; however, we’ve seen an increase in popularity for contract-to-hire positions. We thought we’d examine some of the reasons companies (and professionals) find this arrangement so attractive.
- Fast hires: Many companies must fill vacancies so fast that they simply do not have time to wait for their ideal permanent hire candidate. In a contract-to-hire scenario, they request contractors who are already prescreened and qualified, conduct a phone interview, make a decision. The contractor can often start the next day. Given that a typical permanent hiring process takes two to four weeks, with an average of four to six weeks before the start date, contract to hire allows companies to hire with minimal interruption to productivity.
- Ease of hiring: We have seen hiring managers run into situations where they don’t have a job officially approved, but they need the head count. It can be easier to get a contract-to-hire approach approved up front, fill the job, and have the contractor already working while you’re waiting for job approval. If it is approved, you transition the role to permanent. If it is not, the contract ends without hassle.
- Cost efficient: Companies pay a staffing firm an agreed-upon rate for a contractor’s hours, this amount can be more cost efficient than immediately going with a permanent hire. (Particularly, in those rare instances when the hire does not work out.)
- Immediate impact: Because contractors can typically start immediately, they get up to speed and productive much faster than the average permanent employee onboarding process.
- Flexibility: Even with the most promising hires, companies and professionals both need time to figure out if an individual and the culture is right for them. While every job arrangement has a probation period during which a professional can be let go, contract-to-hire makes the whole situation far more comfortable for all involved. The contract period gives the company and the professional an opportunity to “see how it goes” and determine if it’s the right fit. While permanent employment is the goal, when the contract period is up, both the company and the professional have the opportunity to evaluate the situation and decide if permanent placement is indeed the best decision going forward.
- Broader talent pool: Some companies express concern that if they go contract-to-hire they may miss out on the best permanent hires. What we typically point out is that some of the best professionals prefer contract-to-hire because of the ability to evaluate over a period of time if the company is a good fit. By going contract-to-hire, you open up your position to a much broader talent pool. Many professionals who typically only apply for permanent hires are willing to consider contract-to-hire. So, you do not lose anything by opening a role to this arrangement.
Contract-to-hire isn’t for everyone. But companies who prefer to lower hiring risk, appreciate a “trial” period to ensure cultural fit, and want to expand the talent pool they draw from, often find that it can be a great way to find the right people for their roles.
The holiday season is one filled with friends, family, and reflection on the past year. Here at Workbridge Associates, we have a lot to happy about. It's been a great year, one of our best, in fact!
We've placed a record amount of job seekers with new companies, expanded our national staff, and created a successful new event series that help provide a forum for our technologists to come, learn and network!
We would just like to thank all of the businesses that have worked with us in 2012. Your patronage has helped us find opportunities for all of the talented technologists we work with day in and day out. It truly has been an honor to be a part of building your business!
When you decide to work with Workbridge Associates, we want to help you achieve your goals with your job search. Among prepping you on the background of the company and the job description, the recruiters will also ensure your resume is in tip top shape before sending it off to different companies.
In order to help you with that, we wanted to share some knowledge to help you put your best foot forward with all your interviews.
Below you will find five great tips that you can use before you even step into our office- enjoy.
BY RYAN BRITTAIN
Going in for an interview with a company that you really want to work at? Make sure you are doing a few things beforehand to ensure success:
Google the company
Check their web site's About Us tab and make sure you know what they do and who their clients/partners are. Also, see if you can find any articles or news about the company to gather some good small talk material for the interview. For example, “I saw that you guys recently announced plans to do [project]. How will that affect this position, team, department, etc.?” Look into the management team and get a feel for who is leading the company and where they come from. Nine times out of ten, someone in the interview will ask, “What do you know about us?” Impress them with your answer and get the interview started on the right foot.
Check out the interviewer’s LinkedIn connections
Look up the people you are scheduled to interview with. Check to see if you share any work experience, connections, former colleagues, clubs, interests, etc. For example, “I looked up your profile on LinkedIn and saw that you used to work at [company]. Did you work on [person you know]’s team?” The goal is to make the interview more conversational.
Check out their posts and followers on social media
If you know who you’re meeting with, follow them on Twitter and/or scan their blog. Perhaps they tweeted about an event you recently attended, or commented on a band or sporting event that you like. Doing things like this shows that you are thorough, “plugged-in,” and can create the personality/culture connection that is very important in the interview process.
Get there early…but not too early
If you are unsure how long it will take to get to the interview, make sure you allot some extra time for traffic, getting lost, tie-straightening, etc. If you are more than 15 minutes early, grab some coffee or run through some practice questions and answers. If you show up too early, it can be an inconvenience to the manager.
Have questions ready
Show that you have put some thought into the company. I have interviewed hundreds of candidates for internal positions with my company and I will always wrap up the interview by asking: “What questions do you have for me?” If someone gives me a blank stare and has no questions, I assume they are either not interested or not able to synthesize the information in the interview to come up with a question.