Most of us have heard the saying: “Do you want the best out there, or the best of the unemployed?” Traditionally, contract assignments were filled from the ranks of the unemployed while they continued to look for full-time positions. In fact, the word “consultant” was often seen as code for “unemployed.”
However, over the past five years these trends have been reversed. In fact, trying to fill a freelance position has obstacles and limitations that often make it more challenging than filling a permanent role. Now more than ever, companies need to understand how the marketplace has changed, and use this knowledge to their advantage.
The Paradigm Shift: Contract Work is Cool
In the digital world, contracting is no longer considered a second-best hiring option. In fact, many organizations are housing 30% of their staff as contractors. Online is King, which has been a game-changer, requiring the hiring of heavy back-end IT, Front-End Visual Designers, SEO / SEM, email Marketers and Social Media savvy candidates. These individuals have become accustomed to working on finite projects with solid start and end dates. Since their skills are in such high demand, they do not fear a 2-4 week hiatus before landing their next project. In fact, in the digital space most contract workers have secured their next gig before their current assignment has concluded.
This acceptance of the contracting model within the digital space has also become attractive to permanent employees. Years ago, they would not have considered making a move for a “temporary” project role, but now they may make a move depending on the project and organization. I will go as far as to say that for some in the digital space, contracting has become cool. Today, it is “all about the project,” and the resume bragging rights.
For this paradigm shift, we can also thank the recession— which has taught the workforce that a permanent position is not as stable as it used to be. Many of those who have been working in permanent roles have had no pay increase in the past few years, and are willing to accept a degree of risk to improve their growth prospects.
The results of these shifts in attitude are two-fold: creating a wider search pool (that now includes the employed) and producing a decidedly more competitive landscape for employers looking to hire digital-oriented freelancers.
Communicate with Recruiters to Expedite Search
Every hiring manager should develop strong relationships with at least two external staffing agency partners that they trust to represent them in the digital search marketplace. Good recruiters spend upwards of 70% of their time developing relationships with active and passive candidates, regardless of whether or not they have an open position match. Those personal investments create value and trust between the recruiter and digital contract talent that yield competitive advantages for the hiring manager.
It means that the recruiter working on your job gets their calls returned promptly (and first) from their talent base. It means the talent they are speaking to (even those not open to making a change) will leverage their network on behalf of the recruiter in addition to offering good referrals. When you need to fill a role quickly, timing is everything, and a recruiter with a dedicated network can bring a selection of qualified candidates for your review in days rather than weeks.
In addition, the recruiter knows the intangibles of what a talent is looking for, whether it’s a new project assignment, company, supervisor, commute or better work-life balance and culture-fit. The recruiter also knows what other opportunities the talent is pursuing, and what the chances a counter-offer will be extended. This all means that the talent you interview are already pre-closed should you want to hire them. And let’s face it—there is nothing more painful than having an offer turned down and re-starting a search two weeks later with deadlines looming and internal staff beginning to burn out.
But this is just the recruiters half of the equation. The recruiter is only as powerful as the information you share with them. As a hiring manager, you need to arm your recruiter with the critical information that will make them successful for you, and to make sure nothing gets lost in translation. They need to be able to sell your opportunity, project, team or company better than if you were talking directly to the talent yourself.
Remember, multiple recruiters are calling on digital talent, who now have multiple opportunities to consider. How will yours stand out if all the recruiter has to engage them with is a job description? We need to know what is between the lines. A job description does not impress or excite the talent about the leadership experience and reputation you and your team have to share. Similarly, job descriptions ask for skills, but don’t describe your actual project. The project matters to talent, and they will interview first with companies that can tell them what they will be working on. At the end of the day, a knowledgeable recruiter is a reflection on you, and a promoter of your reputation in the market.
So before your next search, meet with us — empower us to tell your story and see the difference it makes in speed to the fill, skill quality, culture match and offer acceptance.
Author Name – Marie Gordon
Title – Business Development Consultant
Location – Washington, DC
Twitter – @MeetMarie
Byline – Marie has spent the past 15 years in the recruitment industry for creative, digital and communication professionals. She is passionate about branding, innovative marketing and watching the disruption of the status quo.