Sourcing For Contractors

Regular Contributor post from Kristen Fife


I’ve been a recruiter in the Seattle tech market for close to seven years now. I’ve worked for one of the top temporary staffing agencies, as a contractor on numerous teams at Microsoft as both a Sourcer and Full Desk/lifecycle recruiter for their corporate openings, as the lone recruiter at a mid-size company, and currently I’m working for a consulting company that places both staff augmentation and full consulting teams onsite with our enterprise clients.

From a sourcing perspective, I use the same skills to find talent. It is the time and talent management pieces that are vastly different. I do not particularly like straight temporary sourcing/recruiting. The ‘turn and burn’ mentality doesn’t allow me the chance to build a lasting rapport and relationship with my candidates (thus also building trust), or my hiring managers. When I worked at Volt, it was all about a ‘general fit’ and profit margin vs. the candidate experience. That ‘general fit’ was 75% or more. Meaning, if the candidate had 75% of the skills the job description called for, then write up your submittal verbiage and send them over. I was lucky in that I knew what the main skills were at Microsoft for core tech positions (C#, SQL, manual testing for SDET/QA engineers). Back in the mid-90’s, it was a candidates’ market. The inability to offer relocation or to cover expenses for travel to interviews was a major detriment to hiring truly talented people, thus the same professionals were jumped on by rival agencies. However, I will say that the ‘turn and burn’ environment taught me some really valuable skills as far as learning to quickly identify, contact, screen, and move candidates through the pipeline.

My biggest frustration with corporate recruiting is how slow things can be. 45+ days to hire? Seriously? Having that much time allowed me to look like a rock star because I was able to keep pipes filled to overflowing. The advantages to corporate recruiting include the fact that most professionals want the stability and benefits of a full-time job. It’s an easy sell, and especially with a brand like Microsoft as well as the resources, it was easy to convince candidates to at least talk to us. The caveat to full-time positions is that your client is much pickier about quality from both a functional skillset and a cultural fit. It takes many more candidates to fill a full-time requisition than it does a contract role.

Right now, it’s definitely an employer’s market. Jobs are the commodity we have to sell and we get more than enough qualified candidates on every requisition. And, given the fact that I live in an area of the country that seems to be doing better than average on the recovery front, people that are able to are moving to Seattle on their own dime. For example, I heard about the layoffs at Sprint in Kansas and started sourcing project managers for the wireless openings of which we have so many. And, I have two candidates who have applied for jobs from out of state that are moving in and I’m setting up for interviews. So for me, the pipe is very full. However, that does not stop me from continuing to build those longer term relationships. To me, effective sourcing is built on the platform of growing your network during feast AND famine.

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I’d say that right now, more candidates are open to contract opportunities, since a lot of companies are using contingent staffing to help weather the economy. At least in Seattle, this is a cyclical occurence. It happened in the 1998-2001 era (which I affectionately refer to as the dot bomb) and I have no doubt it will continue to do so. And part of that cycle is that contractors who have worked out well will have the opportunity to become full-time employees as companies stabilize financially. If I, as a recruiter, help my candidates find and keep a job, I get the best of all worlds, including referrals from them, because they know I care about their careers and aspirations beyond just the six-month gig at XYZ company.

Have you found that more companies are looking to hire contractors than full-time employees? Are you finding contractors easier or harder to place than full-time? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Kristen Fife is a senior technical recruiter in the greater Seattle area. She has been in recruiting since 2004, starting as contract Researcher for the Microsoft Strategic Recruiting Group before moving into full lifecycle agency recruiting for Volt Technical Services. Her move into corporate recruiting started with both sourcing and full lifecycle contract roles at Microsoft (including MSFT Research, Legal, and various product groups). In addition to Microsoft, Kristen worked for 3 years for RealNetworks/GameHouse as the Senior Technical Recruiter and Sourcing Specialist; at the University of Washington/Harborview Medical Centers as a Sourcer, as well as smaller companies such as Varolii (now part of Nuance Communications), Covestic, and bSquare. Currently she is an RPO Senior Technical Recruiter, she sits on the Leadership Team for Sourcing7, and is a regular presenter, trainer, panelist, and speaker in the Seattle area for recruiting forums and job seekers. She has been a regular contributor to the Seattle Times, including an employment topic column, regular blog, and the NWJobs Hire Wire newsletter for the local recruiting industry. Her blog for job seekers receives several thousand hits a week. She has been quoted in several publications including ABCNews, AOL, the Seattle Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

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