WorkWise: Obtaining contracts through recruiters vs. on your own

culp@workwise.netAugust 11, 2013 

Angelique Diedrick is armed to capitalize on IT opportunities wherever she goes. Currently based in Bloomington, Ill., she’s gained insight into working with contracting firms.

TODD DIEDRICK

Obtaining short-term assignments through a recruiting firm is different from landing one on your own with an organization. Recruiters may be advantageous to your search, because they work in the world of jobs.

However, working with them is less direct and therefore a little more complicated.

Angelique Diedrick of Bloomington, Ill., accepted two subsequent short-term IT assignments taking her from Knoxville, Tenn., to the Midwest. Her telecommunications position had ended a year ago February, after which she conducted what she concedes was a lackluster search.

“As 2013 rolled in,” she explains, “I exploited my strongest skill in highest demand, pumped out a polished, standout resume, decided I was open to relocation and then went public. I had a dozen or so interviews and three offers by February. I learned contracting firms want expertise, track record and mostly flexibility.”

Experience in both client companies taught her the importance of negotiating and obtaining a written agreement. It might also be advisable to check with a client company at the beginning of an assignment to assess whether your expectations are parallel.

Kingston, N.H.’s Tom Mac Dermott, a hospitality consultant, secures and manages food service contracts in his role as manager of FCSI Clarion Group LLC. He makes direct contact with district or regional managers. “There are always at least one unsatisfactory manager and usually a new account to be staffed,” he says. “The person who becomes known favorably to these multi-unit managers has a far better chance of getting hired than the person whose only connection is a resume (in HR).” Companies move quickly to keep accounts.

Mac Dermott attributes the landing of contracts to “competence and the ability to perform the task” and would concur with Diedrick that negotiating is essential. “There’s no specific salary scale for a contracted job,” he reports. “Ask for what you believe you’re worth.” Once you’ve satisfied the interviewer that you’re the one to do the work, you’ve given yourself an edge with fees. Then you may do what job hunters don’t – initiate discussions about money.

And here’s another significant difference, according to Mac Dermott: “It’s for a specific task with a beginning and end, with no benefits other than the pay you’re going to get. Make sure you understand and the other side agrees to a reasonable payment schedule. Some companies are very, very slow in paying out.”

Which method is better? Mac Dermott, securing his own assignments, may take more steps but is more in control. During her search, Diedrick found that (some) “recruiters can and will inflate their actual opportunities, because they, like any salespeople, want to keep the pipeline filled.”

What not to do? Don’t whip through job descriptions. Read them thoroughly, because multiple firms may list the same assignment. “It’s considered unethical to apply to the same job through two firms,” Diedrick says. “They’ll drop you and potentially scar your candidacy with negative reviews that travel the grapevine quickly.” She advises checking Google to assess the employment reputation of the recruiting firm and the company before accepting an assignment. If you can get the supervisor’s name, check even more.

While some of the basics of contract-hunting through recruiters and on your own are similar, beware of the significant difference of having the employment world’s version of an agent. You can’t communicate as directly with the company if a recruiter represents you. By taking steps to protect your interests, you’ll increase the likelihood of assignments working out well for all three of you.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net. ® 2013 Passage Media.

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