Contract Work-No Guarantees

I mentioned the basic outline of contract work, but there’s other things to consider when weighing contract work. There’s no guarantee.

Some ole IT grognards out there probably know more about this, but back in the day contracts were negotiated and outlined. How much time would someone need a consultant? What’s the cost involved? What are the stipulations with bringing someone in-house to help with a project? Hence ‘contract’. Now it’s equivalent to temp work. In the world of temporary (temp) work, contract work is just the prestigious word on the IT side for ‘temp work’. Contract to hire is the same for temp to hire. No offense to our highly skilled office professionals out in the workforce, but IT seems to require a higher skilled, better trained, temp professional. This is why contractor or consultant is needed.

Now that we’ve defined the term contract what does it mean to those in the field. In short, there’s no guarantees.

For staffing firms, like the one I work for, we’re looking for people between jobs. They could use a hand in their job search. Firms can offer short-term work, with good pay, for those that are spinning their wheels trying to find their next corporate seat. I often have people want a different job so bad that they will take a short-term contract position. I often explain that we don’t do that. The IT professional doesn’t understand, and I literally have to spell it out for them.

“Why would you leave a job, any job, that allows you to put food on the table and pays the bills, for something that may be over at the end of the first day?” Because this can happen, and has happened.

Many people then understand and say “I wouldn’t”.

You see, clients will provide us with their intentions up front. They’ll mention that they’ll need someone for about 3 months and may hire them if it’s the right person, but if they don’t like the plate we serve up, they can make us take it back and provide something better. That’s what many firms do. Oh, and there is usually no penalty to the client should they choose to do this.

Yes, it can go the opposite way. The client could love the candidate so much that they won’t want to lose them to a permanent opportunity and decide to hire the person directly sooner than expected. It happens, and there are fees involved, but it’s not the norm.

This is why it’s difficult to accommodate a move from outside the local market. It’s not right to have someone move across the country for something that might be over in the first week. Yes, clients can impose a process making candidates go through a resume review, phone screen and multiple face-to-face interviews, but it’s not until they see the candidate in action that assures their decision was the right one. Even then, budgets can get yanked, and new management can be implemented that will trim the fat and throw temporary help out the window.

Can this happen with a permanent job? Yes it can! However, the odds are much lower and staffing managers don’t have to worry about hurt feelings and disappointments. I ran in to one such person with excellent development skills. I asked how he ended up from California and in America’s Dairyland and it was because he showed up for his first day of work, a permanent job, and they said they eliminated his position.

As in any situation, it’s good to know what is on the table. We in the staffing industry call it, “setting the expectations” and it’s important to know what’s at stake. It’s when you’re ignorant to the process and aren’t accurately informed that you find yourself disappointed and upset should something fall through.

Contract Work

You know, I haven’t been doing staffing since the dawn of time. Sorry. I do know IT professionals that have done contract work in the past, and they may know this better than I. This first part is more of my own speculation…

There may have been a time in the past where people sat at a table and tried to determine the scope, and lenght, of a project. Terms were discussed and agreed upon. We’re going to need someone for 6 months; if we don’t, well we’ll compensate accordingly.

It’s not like that any more.

Nowadays contract work is just the IT staffing word for temporary, or temp, work. It’s project based. Huh? A client has a need for someone with a specific skill set, but it’s only for a project.

Client: We have two websites that need to go live by mid October and we’re way behind. We need someone with 3+ years of experience working with php and mysql to help us out with the work load.

Firm: No problem, we have Sue available. She’s done work like this in the past, is between jobs, and is immediately available to start tomorrow. Based on her qualifications the hourly rate for her expertise is ‘x’ dollars an hour. She’ll be there at 8am tomorrow.

Client: Sounds good.

Yeah, right. Anyone can tell you that it rarely happens that way, but it’s supposed to.

The client has a need, and it’s temporary. They have a tentative timeline in mind. They also know the scope of the project and the skills they need to help them get the job done. They don’t have time to post a job description, wade through 10-30 resumes, have their HR department do phone screens, set up face to face interviews, 2nd face to face interviews, draw up an offer, and hire the person. Not in this situation. That’s why they want, or could use, a staffing firm.

The candidate could use one to find a job. You’re more employable when you’re working. Firms can also help provide opportunities quickly. It’s not always an overnight turn around, but when a request comes through, they want the best qualified to handle the position, and sometimes it’s the person that can answer the phone and be there tomorrow. Right? It gets you a legitimate job with an hourly wage, it allows you to add to your resume, and can even get you a job without having to send out 50 resumes, 10 phone screens, 5 face to face interviews, and 2 second face to face interviews. Seriously? People would say, “no, I am wanting to see if the position comes through. I interviewed 2 weeks ago, and there is one more if I’m chosen, and then they’d want me to start.” How long of time is that? Besides, staffing firms can get you in to places that may not know exist. You want to work for ABC Company? Well, the only way is through the firm they use. It happens. You also earn a competitive wage, and benefits. Yes, most firms actually provide benefits to include bonus incentives, holiday pay, 401K, health, dental, vision, and life insurance! Times have changed and firms have to stay competitive, and bennies is just one way to attract talent.

The firms role is to provide a service to the cient, and also the candidate. Just keep in mind, the firm typically already has things in place before the candidate is presented with the opportunity.  In the end it’s a service to the client. Afterall, you don’t provide a service to those that don’t pay you for it. Many candidates think they’re making the firm money. Obviously there’s a mutual understanding, but you’re not working for free, right? I’d love to have 50 people sitting around just so I could have them go out and tackle projects. I’d have to change my title since I wouldn’t have to recruit. I’d also be considered more of a solution provider than a staffing firm.

Do all firms place every single person that they meet? No they don’t. Like a direct hire position there are plenty of reasons why someone would not get a job through a firm. A job with your skill set may not be available, you may not be qualified, or there’s someone else available that is more qualified to do the job. Sometimes it has to do with a variety of factors that are usually outlined by the candidate. Pay, location/distance to client’s location, work environment, or ‘fit’, are just some that would come in to play when determining someone for a job.

Some of the aforementioned reasons for not getting a job make sense, but what’s this ‘fit’ thing? I have worked with people that are awesome programmers. Highly intelligent, and very, very, good at software development. They can implement solutions that are truly impressive. However, they may not be the best one to stand up in front of high level management on a weekly basis and provide process analysis reports on the project’s status. This is just one example. And it works both ways. I have candidates that don’t want to interact with customers, so a web developer that has to meet with client-customers in order to obtain address their web needs is not the ideal role for the consultant. Could they do it? Sure, but would the job be ideal? No. Grumpy people don’t make great help desk representatives.

Hopefully this gives you some insight on what contract work is. It’s temporary work for IT professionals. It’s a project that a client needs help with.