Article by James Vallone – VP of IT Staffing Solutions at Motion Recruitment Partners
Interviewing IT contractors is very different than interviewing candidates who are looking for full-time positions, as there are more matters to be mindful of. Contractors think and act differently during their job search. To successfully engage IT contractors, you should tailor your conversation during an interview to be more in line with their agenda and what’s on their mind.
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 you as the employer on a peer-to-peer basis (or service provider to client basis) rather than an employee / manager relationship. IT contractors pride themselves on their ability to adapt, fitting into diverse cultures, and becoming a member of a team for temporary periods. Time is an IT contractor’s chief currency when working with more than one company.
To keep contractors fully engaged during the interview process and interested in your opportunity, here are four important things to pay attention to during the interview:
Be Specific About Contract Length: If a contractor asks how long the contract period is, don’t waffle and admit that you are unsure. What does the contractor hear? They hear that you may 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 their time. Always be specific about both the estimated minimum and potential timeframes so they can feel more secure about the engagement.
Don’t Disclose Specific Contractor Pay Rates: First, if you’re working with a staffing firm, redirect any questions the contractor has about pay rates back to the agency. This question is for the agency to address. If an agency is not involved, it is not in your best interest to specify rates early in the process. In doing so, you may risk being too low and turn them off from the opportunity. The candidate 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. It is best practice to ask the contractor to provide their pay expectations first so you can establish more control during negotiations.
Don’t Discuss Your Overall Budget: 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. For instance, communicating that you have a significant budget in place will certainly prove to the contractor that IT is an important initiative for the company. Although, the contractor may leverage this information against you and inquire as to why you’re not paying them more. On the other hand, disclosing a budget number that is very low will have the obvious impact of stirring up concern about the commitment to IT spend. When it comes to disclosing your budget, 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.”
Don’t Make Promises About Contract-to-Perm Conversions: Some IT contractors may inquire about a potential conversion if they are interested in a permanent position. They may also ask because they are not interested in a permanent position altogether. It is important to understand where this question is coming from before you provide an answer. Ask the contractor first about their interest in becoming a permanent employee. If you find they are ideally looking to eventually be converted to a full-time position, 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 is your job to sell the contractor on the great opportunity 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.