Recruitment agencies are more than a place for superhero recruitment consultants to work every day…they are also usually an employer for contractors.
A contractor is someone who is engaged to work in a specific position for a set rate and amount of time. It may be to cover an employee on leave, to support work on a specific project or it may be because the organisation wants to trial a new person before offering them a permanent position.
Many contractors enjoy the flexibility of contracting – working in a role for a specific period of time before taking on a new contract in a different role or company.
In terms of pay rates, contractors are paid per hour for time worked. They aren’t entitled to sick or holiday leave, however, this is offset by a casual loading (generally a 25% increase) which is designed to cover the lack of entitlements.
Deciding whether to be a contractor is a personal choice that only you can make. But if you decide to give it a try, there are certain things you can do to increase your chance of success in finding and performing in a contract role.
Here are my top 9 tips for contracting through a recruitment agency…
- Find the right recruitment agency
Most agencies specialise in recruitment for specific industries (law, accounting, tech, etc.) Do your research and find an agency and consultant that specialises in your type of work. You may also want to ask friends, family and colleagues who they have worked with before and recommend. A personal referral can make all the difference.
- Ensure you click with the consultant
As in any industry, not all Recruitment Consultants are great at what they do. If they don’t return your calls or seem genuinely interested in you, find another. If you tell them what you want (i.e.: to work in the public service), and they’re constantly calling you about opportunities that don’t match (private companies) then they may be working more for themselves than for you.
- Be proactive
Recruitment consultants are very busy and deal with many people on a daily basis. If you’re really keen for work, give them a call every fortnight just to say “I’m still here!”.
I always ask my candidates to do this because if I haven’t heard from them in two months, I naturally assume they have found another role. Calling keeps you top of mind and shows that you’re eager and excited to work. But… make sure you don’t overdo it. A good recruiter will call you when they say they will, so make sure you don’t keep calling without giving them a chance to respond.
- Don’t settle for less than full transparency
Once you get a contract, your consultant should explain your hourly rate and how it is calculated. Also, be sure to ask why the position is vacant so you know the likelihood of extension. If you’re seeking long term work, choose positions where the job is vacant and up for grabs permanently. If you only want short term then a contract covering someone on leave or for a specific project would work well. The role needs to align with your goals and the goals of the organisation. Your consultant should be able to give you all the information you need about the role, if not, they may not be invested in ensuring it’s a great match for you.
- Understand that the recruitment agency is your employer
When you are contracted by a recruitment agency, you are employed by them. They are responsible for your work and health and safety, therefore you need to notify them immediately if something happens. You should also feel supported by them if any issues arise at work such as bullying or harassment.
- Be prepared to work hard
In a contract, the notice period required to let you go is very minimal (sometimes only one hour) and there is no probationary period. If you don’t perform, the contract could end very quickly, so be reliable and try not to take excessive leave. Just because the organisation doesn’t pay you for leave doesn’t mean they don’t still need you there.
- Use it as a stepping stone
Contracts offer a great mutual trial period for contractors and organisations. View your contract as an opportunity to see if the job, environment and culture are the right fit for you (and keep in mind the organisation is doing the same). Contracting roles can lead to extensions or permanency, so if you’re keen for permanent employment contracting can be a great way to get a foot in the door.
This is particularly true of the public service. For those keen to forge a career in the APS, contracting is an ideal way to transition from the private sector, gain and demonstrate experience, develop networks, and learn how the APS works.
- Track your time
As a contractor, you need to submit weekly or fortnightly timesheets to your employer (the recruitment agency). This is usually done via an online portal, and will be sent directly to your supervisor at work for approval. Be aware that you only get paid for the hours you work.
- Keep an eye on your career
Contracts are a fantastic way to gain new experience, but if your goal is to win a permanent position, having 10 short term contracts in 2 years doesn’t look great on your CV. Employers may assume that you are not a strong performer. While a couple of short term contracts are good, aim to mix it up with longer term contracts that offer the possibility of extension.