Recruiting, Talent

Contract or Perm—Be Mindful of Your Hiring Practices in a Candidate-Driven Market

The rise of contract workers has hardly been a secret. In every corner of the economy, influences such as technology, market, and employee-related factors have led to a reshaping of the modern workforce.


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An NPR poll last year found that one in five American jobs was held by a contract worker and that nearly half of the American workforce is expected to comprise this type of worker within 10 years. Contracting is a trend that can benefit both contract workers and employers, especially given industries’ and businesses’ fast evolution.

But Massachusetts-based recruiting firm WinterWyman has compiled data that belie this trend. From 2017 to 2019, the number of permanent roles the firm opened and placed doubled, while the number of temp openings remained steady. As part of this, WinterWyman observed that more employers are creating permanent roles—positions they may not initially have budgeted or even had headcount approval for. So, why the discrepancy?

It’s all about the economy and, more specifically, unemployment. As the national unemployment rate remains near historic lows, companies nationwide are struggling to attract talent, which makes it even more important to retain talent.

It’s a candidate-driven market, and jobseekers can be highly selective in their searches—whether their focus is on salary, benefits, flexibility, or corporate environment. This has put the pressure on companies to get creative when it comes to hiring and retention—and that creativity directly impacts the contract and permanent workforces.

Pros and Cons to Hiring Contract Workers

Employers like contract roles for a number of reasons. First, they provide the opportunity to assess an employee’s skills and cultural fit before committing to a full-time arrangement that includes benefits and other expenses. Employers also want to ensure their financials are in place before hiring full-time employees. Contract workers give employers the ability to maintain productivity while managing and considering these other factors.

But contract hires can be risky. Once employers find a qualified candidate, losing him or her at the end of the contract means starting from square one. Then, not only are they forced to find another qualified candidate in a tight labor market, but they also take a major productivity hit in the process.

And the workload is not slowing down; in fact, in many cases, the work is increasing due to company growth. Additionally, employers are not able to attract as many candidates to a contract role because these individuals are opting instead for a permanent opportunity at another company.

Tips for Winning Over Candidates

Whether the position is contract or perm, the hardest part is winning candidates. To be successful, keep these tips in mind during the hiring process:

  • Respond quickly. Avoid wasting a candidate’s time, and be responsive throughout the application and interview process. Otherwise, candidates will look for another opportunity (and take it!) with another employer.
  • Shorten the interview process. Multiple rounds of interviews are a thing of the past. When you find a quality candidate you believe will be a good fit, make the offer. Combine interviews so the candidate isn’t at your location for endless hours, and introduce the person to fewer people. If you don’t, he or she will likely opt for a job that has a more streamlined interview process.
  • Be flexible. If a candidate or hiring manager is unable to meet in person due to a scheduling conflict, make other arrangements, such as a video interview or meeting somewhere off-site that is convenient for the candidate. He or she will appreciate your flexibility and that you valued his or her time.
  • Reduce “interview homework.” Some hiring managers give interview homework, such as writing or coding assessments. Candidates—especially in tech—are sometimes inundated with these requests and get burned out. If you feel confident that the candidate would be successful in the role based on his or her résumé and interview, forego the homework and make an offer.

When employers are flexible and evolve as the economy and hiring markets change, they will have a better chance of attracting and winning top talent.

Sara Ferraioli is the Partner/Managing Director at WinterWyman, one of the Northeast’s most recognized talent acquisition firms. For more than 40 years, WinterWyman has helped companies—from Fortune 500 powerhouses to cutting-edge start-ups—identify, attract, and recruit talented professionals. Connect with Sara and WinterWyman on Twitter: @sf_winterwyman and @WinterWyman, respectively.

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