Mailbag: How do you talk someone into working Contract?

Here’s the question:

“Can you please help me on how do you convince a candidate to work on contract?”

Sam – New Jersey

Here’s some background, because some people might be confused on what the question even asks. A ‘Contract’ position is usually what technical engineering and IT recruiters refer to for a professional temporary type job.  It’s not ‘temp’ that you usually think of when someone says “hey I’ve got a temp job” for you  – which is normally a low paying, manual labor job.  Contract positions are usually project based, highly paid hired guns that come in to do a certain job and move on.  You also see many corporations now using contract hiring for their professional staff as a kind of ‘try and buy’ type of staffing.  Hire talent on contract, if they workout well and fit your culture, then offer them a direction position.

Sam – is new to the professional contingent staffing game – and he’s asking the million dollar question.  Your ability to sell ‘contract’ is what separates the men from the boys in the staffing industry! Here’s my reply:


Here’s the canned staffing industry answer for getting an IT Pro to work contract vs. direct:

You talk a candidate into a contract because of a number of factors – the ability to work a project that gives them experiences they don’t have, to work for a company they have desire to work for, it’s a higher level of position than they currently have and/or it is in a location geographically they want to be versus where they are currently.  A few other things that are enticing – much higher level of compensation, working for a true leader in the industry (mentor type), working on a project that will set them up for future projects they couldn’t get without working on this project.  

 Here’s the reality:

If you have none of these things – you’ll never talk a direct person to go contract – unless they are just plain miserable in their current job.  To get a direct person to work contract you have to find their pain spot – what is it about their current position they can’t stand – and if you can solve that with what you have to offer – just maybe you’ll get that person to accept your contract position.  If you have none of those things that solves their pain – you have no chance.

Good luck, Tim”

Finding an individuals pain spot, or hot button, is the key to any kind of candidate negotiation, but critical for getting someone to accept a contract position.  I’ve been told by 100+ HR Pros that a ‘good’ candidate would never accept a contract position over a direct position.  After 10 years of working the industry – I can honestly look them in the eye and tell them they are flat wrong!  I get people to take contract position every single week who turn down direct positions.  The direct position might be with a bad company, bad location, low pay, etc.  Contract offers them an opportunity to stay where they want, work with a company they’ve been targeting to get into, maybe cash a big check, etc.

I speak to corporate HR Pros every single week and many have the same issue – “Tim – we spend so much time and resources bringing in good talent – only to have them fail and once they are on staff, it seems next to impossible to get rid of them quickly!”   Contract is one answer to solve this.  It allows both sides to feel each other out, see if it’s a fit and then get married down the road after you’ve dated a while.  If it doesn’t work, your hiring managers don’t feel the same ‘ownership’ of a contractor and will cut them loose quicker than they would a direct employee.


2 thoughts on “Mailbag: How do you talk someone into working Contract?

  1. A number of questions come to mind when I evaluate a contract position in addition to the ones you mention. Give me an honest reason for creating the contract position instead of the direct one. We like to “date” candidates first for fit – is a completely reasonable answer. What percentage of contractors become employed full-time after their contract ends? If they don’t hire many, I am likely to look elsewhere.

    A friend of mine recently took a contract position at a big bank of only 5 months in duration. It turns out that they were not able to go through the proper process fast enough to hire him full-time, so this was their end-run around their internal restrictions. The 5-month contract was designed to get him in the door and allow them time to satisfy their hiring laws.

    Honesty engenders trust – a great way to start off an employment relationship.

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