First and foremost, contracting can be a great opportunity to land your next job, fast track your career, and even give yourself a bit of a raise. When job seekers start a new contract position after switching from a full-time role, it's usually amazes them how quickly the process moves. “Wow… that was fast,” is a common response - but don't move so fast that you forget to ask yourself some important questions first.
While you consider the questions below, bear in mind that those who are critical of contract positions may unwittingly provide false information about these types of positions - anything but a full-time job lacks benefits and stability are among common misconceptions. Jobspring Partners actually offers a health care insurance package and PTO, which is a growing trend in companies that hire contractors. A contract role can be an easy and flexible way to gain employment in a fast-moving IT industry. Have kids? Imagine not being tied to a 9-5 schedule. Trying to get your foot in the door with a large company you already applied to in the past? An alternative path to the inside could be through contracting.
Find a contract or contract-to-hire position near you on our job board.
Be sure to have the answers to these important questions from the company, recruiter, or just yourself before committing:
How long is the contract?
Know how long you’ll be working on this contract. That way, you’ll know when you need to start thinking about the next contract or the next steps to converting full-time. Contract lengths can run anything from 4 weeks all the way to, well, forever.
Is this for a project that has been secured?
Find out if the business is already won by the contracting company because sometimes firms like to start the interview process BEFORE being awarded the business and have the ability to put contractors on. You certainly don’t want to turn down other offers you had when the job you accepted technically doesn’t exist yet. A simple way of asking is: “If I accept the offer, how soon can I start?” The answer you’re looking for should be a something like immediately, on Monday, or right after your two week notice.
Am I going to be hired as a W-2 employee or as 1099?
The main differences come down to taxes. As a W-2 employee, you will receive pay checks with tax withholding already taken, and you’ll receive an IRS W-2 from your employer in January of the following year. If you are hired as a 1099 contractor, you’ll get full pay with no tax deductions, but you are also responsible for paying your own taxes come April 15th of the following year.
It’s tempting to opt for a 1099 since your pay checks are bigger, but that smile quickly goes away when you realize you not only have to calculate how much you owe at the end of the year, but in fact you OWE MORE! You get tagged with self-employment tax which is another 13-14% of your income on top of the taxes you already pay. As a perk, however, you can write off multiple expenses for your work as well (transportation, computers, phone service, etc.) Think about these points before deciding which is better for you.
What happens when the contract ends?
It’s important to know what your options are. Some staffing companies have other projects they will have needs for, and it’s good to know if you might qualify for those. The benefit of using a technology-specific staffing firm is that a great majority of their other clients will have needs that match your skill set so that when you’re done with the current contract, you increase your chances of landing another quickly with minimal downtime.
What is the realistic time-frame of converting temp-to-hire?
If the job is a contract-to-hire position, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of when you might be converting to full-time status. This sets the expectations on both sides, and ensures that you and your potential employer are on the same page. Typically the timeline can be anywhere from 3 to 6 months. If you find yourself in the eigth month with no talk of conversion, it’s time to revisit the conversation with your hiring manager.
What salary should I expect when I accept a full-time offer following my contract role?
Most people get a bit nervous when talking about salary and compensation, but it's important to be aware of what the potential salary would look like if you convert to full-time. While it may be an uncomfortable conversation to have now, it’ll save you a headache down the road. You don’t want to find yourself having worked 4 months into a contract only to find that the salary they are thinking isn't close to what you were expecting. Of course, it’s important to be realistic as well. If you are a W-2 employee getting paid $45/hour, you should be considering a base salary of around $90,000 (inclusive of benefits and such).
Have more questions about being a contractor? Ask a Jobspring representative near you.
For a first-timer, a contract position can look intimidating. Don’t let that stop you from considering the opportunity and asking the essential questions before coming to a decision. Working with a recruiter can take some of the uncertainty out of the equation if you're unsure, but it comes down to getting all the answers you need in order to make the right decision.
It's true, the job interview process is an arduous task in today’s society. There are many obstacles that frequently catch job seekers off-guard and cause great opportunities to crumble. One of the most important, and daunting parts of the interview process for software engineers is the technical interview. Accurately preparing for one of these is extremely important in order to get an offer from your company of choice. Technical interviews are often quite rigorous and can push talented engineers to new levels of critical thinking and assessment.
So, you ask, "How do I ultimately prepare for the technical interview?"
Work with Jobspring Partners to find a position you want to interview at.
Below is a how-to guide on how to ace it:
- Be Ready to Whiteboard: This is generally a go-to interview tactic for tech companies to evaluate engineers during the interview process. It’s always smart to practice solving technical questions on a white board to see how your brain operates/critically thinks when not in front of the computer.
- Brush Up on Core Principles and Basics: Always make sure to brush up on any programming languages that may be rusty. Expect to be asked questions ranging from the fundamentals of certain languages to some higher-level concepts. For example, if you are interviewing for a PHP job, it is helpful to brush up on the fundamentals of the LAMP Stack and the MySQL Database.
- Bring Code Samples: It’s always a good idea to bring code samples and github profiles with you to the interview. Companies are looking for writing ability and the ability to communicate technical thoughts through code documentation.
- Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions: An important part of the process is to ask questions about the role to show that you are interested and engaged. Make sure to prepare 2-3 questions to ask at the end of the interview that show genuine interest and thought.
- Send a Thank You Note: This is always a good thing to do when you finish any interview process with a company, but it's easy to forget while focusing on the tech. You want the company and the people you met with to remember you for the right reasons. Always address why you would be a good fit for the role and bring it back to the job description and what was covered in the interview.
If you do all of these things, the odds of you getting a final-round interview, or better yet a job offer, will increase significantly. So always remember, preparation is the key to success in landing your dream job.
The Market Today
For those of us who exist in and around the technology hiring market, the sentiment we hear repeated over and over again ad nauseam is “the market is soo hot right now!” And indeed it is. If you’re a software developer using any of the modern programming languages, have at least a year of professional experience and can articulate your passions and abilities successfully, the job market is one giant open door for you.
But what about recent college grads? Is the landscape for entry level programmers really so inviting? I don’t believe so. No matter who you are, what you’ve done, and regardless of what field you’re trying to break into, finding your first job can be tough. Many young parents throughout the course of history have exclaimed upon first looking at their newborn child, “It doesn’t come with a manual.” Such is the case in the world of the workforce. College was a world of comfort. You blasted through your CS program with flying colors, know C++ or Java like the back of your hand, and got a nice letter of recommendation from a few of your professors. So what happens now? Do companies just start knocking on your door asking for a copy of your resume? Well, if you have any friends who have been working in software development for a few years, that’s probably what you’re expecting.
What It’s Really Like in The Market
We recruiters like to provide quick witted explanations of what the market is like to help frame our candidate’s expectations. One such idiom that I myself have gone back to time and time again is “There are ten open jobs for every one qualified developer on the market.” To this day I take this as truth, but there certain caveats to that statement that need to be understood to extract its full meaning. What we’re really trying to say is that new companies are popping up every day, getting funding and generating buzz. In most cases, in order to build their ambitious software platforms they need senior level skills and experience to guide the way. On the other hand, experience has shown me that most companies that hire junior programmers are well established, have large teams, and have the bandwidth to provide a little bit of hand-holding and support to fledgling engineers. So, by virtue of the fact that there are more small startups than large, well established engineering companies, we can conclude that lots of companies want senior developers, but not as many are able hire their entry level counterparts.
Want an entry-level developer position? Check the job board for openings near you.
This leaves us with a seemingly impossible conundrum. As a young software developer, should you accept as fact that you won’t be able to get your first job without at least a year of real world experience? Well, if that was the case I could imagine it being a lot harder to find developers than it currently is. To guarantee yourself options, offers and opportunities upon graduation, please read the following tips and take them to heart.
The Secrets To Success
Do it for the love of the game. For those of us who grew up loving the movie “Space Jam,” we can recall vividly the opening scene of young Michael Jordan shooting hoops at midnight, despite his father’s best efforts to put him to bed. Michael had not yet signed a million dollar contract at that point in his life; all he knew was that he wanted to fly. You want to be a programmer when you grow up? Show your future employers that you are passionate about coding, that it means more to you than just a paycheck. This may sound like a convoluted piece of advice, but its real world application is actually quite simple: code for the fun of it. Don’t believe for a second that just because you’re taking CS classes and learning all about algorithms, syntax and object oriented principles that you’ll be the development equivalent to the number one draft pick when you start looking for a job. Too many developers graduate college with a sense of entitlement yet have no personal projects to show for their time. As someone who’s placed many junior developers at their first jobs, I can say with 100% confidence that the young developer who has tried to build things on his or her own time always gets the job. It shows passion, and more so than talent, passion and commitment build skills over the long term. Companies want to invest in junior developers who will eventually become seasoned and versatile, and this is the strongest indication you can give a future employer that you embody these characteristics.
Have your priorities straight. What should you be looking to get out of your first job? Too many junior engineers, influenced by their more senior counterparts, are practically racing to break that six figure mark, but what’s the hurry? Yes, there are some not-so-great companies that will overpay under-qualified candidates, but is that the right job for someone to build a career off of? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this, but I believe that regardless of what field you’re in, there are certain priorities that everyone should hold close when trying to start a career. Your first job should be about building skills. Forget money in the short term, that will come (and quickly) if you can rapidly develop your own skill set. If I had it all to do over again and chose to begin a career in the world of development, I’d look for a company with a cool product, a team I could learn from, and a support system I could fall back on. You only get one first job, so it’s important to think long term in making these important life decisions.
Network within the industry. Does it ever hurt to know people? So much can be accomplished by building relationships within the tech community and it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort. Believe it or not, it’s a small world out there and the person you spent ten minutes chatting with at an Objective-C conference six months ago very well might be the person interviewing you next week. Get on Meetup.com and find events where you can meet like-minded individuals who share your interest in technology. You might learn about emerging technical trends, make new friends, or even meet your future boss. Hiring managers frequently attend meetups hoping to find passionate, talented developers to consider for their teams.
Find tech events nearby where you can network with hiring managers and other IT professionals.
Too Long – Didn’t Read
So you’re an entry level developer who wants to break into the tech world? Prove it. Believe it or not, you’re not entitled to an amazing first job just because you finished your CS program, even if you went to a great school. Companies want to hire candidates that bring value to their organization, and hopefully this article will help a few of you out there understand how to accomplish that goal. To summarize, do it for the love of the game, know what you’re hoping to get out of your first job, build connections, and stay up to date on technical trends. The world of software development offers unlimited opportunities to those who seek them; take the bull by the horns and make it clear that you want it!