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Job Descriptions for Contractors vs Employees

A perfect job description is the first step in making sure you attract the most qualified applicants for your position.  If you consider the job posting as a marketing document (which we recommend you do) then you know that to make it effective, you need to write for your target audience. There are many ways we can classify job seekers, but one way is to look at those seeking permanent, full-time employment and those who are seeking contract positions.

The job description you write to attract a new employee should be different from the one you’d write for a contractor who is performing the same work. To understand those differences, let’s first take a look at the goals and behavior of each group.


Those looking for full-time, permanent work tend to have long-term goals in mind. They’re seeking an organization that will help them grow and provides opportunities for promotion. These people also recognize that since they’ll be with their new organization for a long period of time, they’ll want to be in an environment that makes them happy. Therefore, they research the company and its corporate culture to find the place that they know will fit with their values. Finally, and most obviously, future employees care about the salary and benefits being offered, including vacation. They depend on the company to help them find the ultimate work/life balance.

Contractors are usually independent entities seeking short-term project work. Their main goal is to find a project where they have the skills required to do the job, but they also want to learn and grow as a professional, as well as gain some impressive accomplishments and references to add to a long resume. Although this group wants to know they’d be working in a nice environment, they’re much less concerned with the corporate culture. This is because they know it is not long-term situation, but also because they avoid getting involved with employee activities, protecting themselves from being classified as an employee by the CRA. Finally, independent contractors don’t seek a salary, but instead are looking for a competitive market rate that allows them to pay themselves, and also cover other expenses unique to contractors, such as insurance and vacation time.


Because there is more invested in a permanent position, employees often spend more time in their job search. They carefully evaluate all positions and organizations based on which ones will help them achieve their personal goals, and then concentrate on submitting top-notch applications to a select few who meet the criteria. These job seekers (at least the good ones) rarely go through this process but when they do, they’re hoping that it will be their only job search for a long period of time.

Contractors treat the entire situation as a business-to-business activity. Instead of searching for a job, they’re looking for a gig for their business. These people often deal with procurement departments rather than HR and, therefore, are used to that process. Contractors are always looking at new jobs, even if they currently have one that is expected to last for another few months. As such, they apply to many positions, they’re time is limited, and they have no desire to read the “fluff” in a job description.


The employee job description is what’s more often written about and you are probably already an expert on this topic. When creating a job posting for a full-time position, put a lot of effort into selling the company and the long-term benefits. Demonstrate why they should want to work at your organization and explain the corporate culture. The tone of your ad will also tell a prospective employee a lot about your culture.  Instead of just skills, let future employees know all of their roles and responsibilities as a member of your team.

On the contrary, contract job postings should be short and to the point. Provide an overview of the project with the required skills so the contractor can quickly decide if they want to apply or not. Be sure to include the length of the project and try to use words more unique to contracting such as “rate” instead of “salary.” Finally, there is a common misunderstanding that every contractor would rather be an employee. As a result, there may be a temptation to include a line that says “potential for permanent employment.” This line may actually discourage career contractors, so you may want to think twice before adding it if that isn’t really part of the plan.

Both employees and contractors bring different value to an organization. They each have different benefits so a solid mix is a great idea, just be sure you know the best ways to recruit each of them.