The great recession blurred the lines between contract and permanent recruitment.
In an attempt to contain costs and mitigate risk, many businesses started hiring ‘permanent’ candidates for a mash-up of a true contract role (that is, an assignment with a specific, short-term remit), and a permanent role. This trend is understandable, but in my opinion, regrettable.
I can honestly say that the overwhelming majority of these placements are met with issues. The risk of failure far outweighs the potential benefit of securing a ‘temporary-to-permanent’ placement.
Why is this? Surely if someone has a history of excellent performance in permanent positions, they’ll be good enough for a contract assignment - even if they have little or no contracting experience?
The fact is; contracting isn’t for everyone. Often what makes someone a great permanent employee is a weakness when it comes to contracting – and vice-versa.
Professional contractors tend to have these three traits in common:
1. A proactive, assertive communication style
This is a key strength in all of the best contractors I know. Contractors are often required to quickly source information, with limited knowledge of the business. They must be able to almost instinctively, proactively identify the people in the business who hold key information, and often overcome their reluctance to give it freely. They must also be confident in their ability to deliver sometimes unpalatable information back to the business.
2. Strong commitment to the assignment
A professional contractor will have a strong commitment to their assignment and - barring drastic circumstances - they will see them out in good faith. Some (certainly not all) permanent candidates working in a contract role will treat the role almost as though it were second-class; a mere stepping stone to a permanent job. If they’re offered their dream permanent position halfway through a contract assignment, they’re likely to take it – and what reasonable person could blame them?
3. Total lack of agenda
This is the only trait that is truly unique to a contractor; it cannot be replicated by anyone who is hoping to be considered for a permanent role in the business, no matter how independent and objective they strive to be. A professional contractor is focused solely on completing their contract successfully. They have no designs on a permanent position at the company, so it’s much easier for them to sidestep office politics altogether.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the most talented contractors in Auckland’s accounting market. These people are not ‘candidates’ to us, but truly an integral part of our business. They choose to work exclusively in contract roles – they don’t take them on just to fill a gap between permanent roles. Their personalities and skill sets are perfectly suited to the challenges of a contract assignment.
Next time you’re recruiting for a contract, do yourself the huge favour of hiring a contractor. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.