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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
12/8/2014
09:06 AM
John Yurkschatt
John Yurkschatt
Commentary
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Tips For IT Contractors Going Full-Time

IT contractors looking for full-time employment face tough questions from hiring managers. Here's how to respond.

I recently met a very frustrated IT job candidate who said to me, "Everywhere I apply for a full-time permanent role, hiring managers remove me from the process because I've been a contractor my entire career. How can I overcome that?"

She'd been pigeonholed and stereotyped by hiring managers who wouldn’t consider her even though she was well suited for a full-time position. 

This led to a detailed conversation with her on what goes through a hiring manager's mind when looking at contractors who want to make a career move to a FTE (full-time employee) role.

[IT pros are starting to feel disposable. Wake up, IT leaders: Relationships like this don't survive. IT Talent Shortage: Ugly Truths]

The first thing they think about is how you'll perform as an employee because there's no track record. Also, will you be a good cultural fit and be able to complete one in-house project and seamlessly move to the next for the same money? I told her she would have to overcome their reservations by addressing them head-on.

Below are a few pointed questions hiring managers will want you to answer. With that in mind, I've included possible answers that will help you overcome being typecast as a contractor.

Hiring Manager: "You've only been a contractor?"

You: "Correct, which means I've had the opportunity to understand and learn numerous IT environments. While I may not have been at a company for multiple years, I've been utilized in various roles where I've overcome challenging situations at each stop along the path. At the time, contracting made the most sense for what I wanted to accomplish both personally and professionally. Now, I'm ready for the next chapter in my career."

HM: "You haven't been with a company longer than a year or two?"

You: "True, which means organizations have paid for my expertise and made use of my skills often due to what their own full-time employees were unable to do themselves. I understand that I've been supplemental staff, but I've been staff that's been seen as an asset to urgent and critical projects along the way. My track record of consulting on numerous projects is not due to a lack of expertise, it's just the opposite. I wouldn't have been able to sustain a career in this niche space if I was not assisting organizations with some of their most important IT needs."

HM: "How do I know you won’t leave to contract again?"

You: "You don't. But how do I know that management won't change 30 days after I take the job? I understand my history shows numerous jobs, but also a significant track record of success. If anything, my track record shows sustainable success and the ability to positively impact IT departments. (You might respond by stating reasons why you're pursuing the position such as stability, growing organization, no travel, etc.)"

HM: "This is implementation and support work, not just the fun work. Is that what you want to do?"

You: "While I love the ever-changing, dynamic experiences of working on high-profile implementations and the fun work has provided me with a better understanding of the inner workings, I haven't necessarily been able to own that work for an extended period of time. I've been a piece to the puzzle, be it a large piece, but I want to be at an organization and look back and think about where we were five years ago and where we are now. I want to work and grow with a team, not build temporary relationships. While there are many reasons for my interest in pursuing a full-time role as opposed to continuing to consult, the people aspect -- growing with a team, and knocking down IT barriers as a unit -- are two of the most important things to me."

HM: "What about money? Usually contractors have a higher hourly rate than salaried positions."


You: "While I seized the opportunity to ride the money train and make attractive compensation, it's time to pursue a different course. Sometimes there's more important reasons to change jobs and careers than money. I want to go down a path that's better suited for me and follow my passion. The job you present is something that excites me and I find myself full of creative ideas on how to add value to your organization."

So if working as a contractor is no longer for you and an FTE position looks attractive, you need to be ready to respond to a hiring manager's concerns. Make sure your needs and interests are totally aligned with theirs. With the right attitude and answers, you can parlay your experience as a contractor into a full time position.

Employers see a talent shortage. Job hunters see a broken hiring process. In the rush to complete projects, the industry risks rushing to an IT talent failure. Get the Talent Shortage Debate issue of InformationWeek today.

John Yurkschatt is the Director of the IT Services Practice for Direct Consulting Associates (DCA), an IT consulting and staffing firm. View Full Bio
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batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 11:33:05 AM
Re: People skills
@SunitaT0, it like theory vs reality... but you bring up interesting point...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2015 | 2:44:25 PM
Re: Always a contractor?
@yalanand interesting point... but I would like to add from my point of view... it process and process like everything else could be good or bad... it depends on the human factor... :)...
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2014 | 2:48:52 PM
Re: Always a contractor?
"Although it's not always the case, sometimes contractor is being looked down upon during the interview."

I think most people don't perform their best in interviews. Since the custom is to get everything out (like what (s)he knows about the job and what are his/her qualificiations etc), interviewers often end up grilling people. This takes them out of their comfort zone, and thus people are unable to perform well. 
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2014 | 2:46:33 PM
Re: People skills
@SunitaT0: Team building is really difficult, just as difficult it is to get the right person for the right job.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2014 | 5:51:42 AM
Re: People skills
The best people with enterpreneur skills aren't the ones qualified for team management, and those people with managing skills do not take risks like an enterpreneur would take. Maybe taking the best of both the qualities and building a team that comprises of both enterpreneurs and managers alike, that would ensure smooth functioning.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2014 | 5:43:29 AM
Re: People skills
"I think the lesson behind that is (stereotypically) they are more interested in the ideas/process to solve a problem than solving the actual problem."

@TerryB: The reason for that is business experts try to find the largest number of problems that particular solution can solve. 
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2014 | 10:29:13 AM
Re: People skills
One of my favorites jokes:  Consultants know 300 ways to make love but don't have a girlfriend.

I think the lesson behind that is (stereotypically) they are more interested in the ideas/process to solve a problem than solving the actual problem. After beginning my career with 13 years at same company, it was not a good fit when I spent 3 years consulting/contracting before taking job I do now back in 2002. I was geared to solving business issues quickly and cheaply as possible, not generating billable hours for the consulting company I worked for. They had this methodology so geared to generate wasted time before actually putting any code solution in place it was offensive to me. 

Even when that consulting company went belly up after Y2K ERP projects were done and I started my own thing to service the 3 clients I had, it was not a rewarding experience. The money was good but you didn't feel like part of the team. I ended up hiring on with one of these clients and have not regretted it.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2014 | 9:39:14 AM
People skills
There's also the question of how you'll play with the team. Some contractors remain contractors for years because they are cowboys -- they don't want to have to play by group rules. Others have excellent people skills but don't want to put up with the politics of a full-time job. I expect hiring managers will explore these questions, too. The use of contractors is on the rise, across the IT industry, so I expect more people to go back and forth between contract and full-time work.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2014 | 8:56:12 AM
Re: Always a contractor?
I think there is a common impression that contractor can only do some laborous project work instead of owning something completely. Although it's not always the case, sometimes contractor is being looked down upon during the interview. It depends on the hiring manager and the company but it still mainly depends on how competent you are instead of being a regular or contractor.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
12/8/2014 | 1:18:14 PM
Always a contractor?
I guess I didn't know firms like that hired entry level people. I suppose they could be sent out with someone senior until they gained some experience. But I would think this is exception, not the norm?

 
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