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Advice for New Contractors

I received an email from a senior person who is relatively new to the contracting world and wondering what they needed to do to be successful. Their early experiences with agencies have not been particularly positive and they wondered if I had any advice.

Having spent some time answering the question for her, I thought I might modify that answer and create today's blog entry! No point in wasting all that "grey matter" that went into my answer!

The writer observed that getting the attention of agencies is tough and "the whole concept of good and basic manners have been thrown out by some in this business". She also wondered how she should go about picking agencies, working with agencies and building relationships.

She is of course right about getting their attention and while I won't make excuses for poor behaviour I did try to give her some insights into why this is the case. Here were my observations

I think it is important whenever you are selling anything to understand, as much as possible, what it is like to walk in the shoes of the person you are selling to. The more you can understand about their pain, their needs, their wishes, then the better chance you have of aligning your product/service to the opportunity.

Yeah I know ... blah, blah, blah, what does that all mean to you the new contractor! OK ... think of the agencies as your clients (not a bad starting point for success ... you can always modify your opinions later) and you are selling us on your qualifications and candidacy for a job with our clients.

What is it like inside an agency? We get literally thousands of resumes every month. We get tens of opportunities in a good month and these are not good months ... the recovery is slow, government procurement is not ramped up (here in Ottawa) and there is NOT a lot of new stuff happening. So a very small percentage of people who apply to any agency will actually get a job, and the agencies get more jobs than most employers!

Furthermore the recruiters within agencies will always work with those people that they are most comfortable submitting. They likely won't (shouldn't) submit someone that they haven't met.

Now don't get discouraged ... that's the tough side of the equation.

So breaking it down ... you need to get noticed. Then you need to get an interview with the agency. Then you need to be top of mind for a current opportunity that is a good fit for you.

Recruiters, like most people, love it when people make life easy for them. So if you can let them know that (1) Opportunity A looks like a great fit for these 3 or 4 good reasons, and (2) by the way they know you and (3) you gave them your reference information and (4) if needed you can customize your resume (truthfully ... not embellishment) to fit the position, then you will be likely called.

Step one ... get noticed.
Step two ... get an interview. Understand how the recruiter wants to keep in contact (text, email, voice etc).
Step three ... work to get those roles.
Step four .... maintain the relationship for the future.

The other part of the question asked was about picking agencies to work with.

There are a number of things you should know when working with agencies.

> Get referrals if you can.
> You should understand their breadth of opportunity ... do they have a good base of clients, who use lots of contractors?
> You should understand their terms and conditions ... what does their contract look like? What are their payment terms? Are there differences in terms and conditions between clients (there almost always is).
> Are they involved in the industry ... do they belong to industry associations (ACSESS and NACCB are two staffing industry associations. ITAC and CATA are a couple of IT focused industry associations. There are more.)
> Do they get involved and give back to their community ... involvement in charities speaks to their culture.
> You should research them a little to see if they look professional.
> You should meet with them and see how comfortable you are with them. Do they understand the market, know what rates are like etc.
> I think you should form a relationship with at least 3 or 4 agencies. That will give you a wide breadth of coverage.

Recruiters are inherently very busy people who tend to go from "fire to fire" so set your expectations of contact low ... as you already observed. If everyone of the several thousand applicants who sent in resumes each month called, then the recruiters wouldn't get much done! Text messaging is actually a growing trend, short concise emails are good and phone contact when there are real opportunities to talk about will probably be how it goes.

I'm sure there is lots more, but I think this is a good start.

Hope it helps and good luck.