As an IT contractor/consultant, your relationships with IT recruiters can have a major impact on your job search journey. Especially since contractors are being distanced from the hiring managers and clients due to the introduction of MSPs (Managed Services Provider) & VMSs (Vendor Management Systems).
The days of working directly for an enterprise client and billing them directly are almost vanished. Your best and safest option is to go through an approved vendor. As you might have already experienced, agencies (approved vendor or not) come in all shapes and sizes and unfortunately, not all operate under the same ethical guidelines. It is your responsibility to make sure that your best interest is a priority with your recruiter and agency of choice.
Just like recruiters ask questions to vet you, you need to do the same the first time you deal with each agency to make sure that they are ethical and trustworthy. Below is a list a list of questions that will help you find out more about an agency before working with them.
Where did you find my profile?
If you haven’t heard of that recruiter/agency before and/or if you don’t have your resume posted online, you’ll want find out how your contact info is surfaced.
This question could help with positioning your experience better; by knowing what they have seen/read so far. It also helps you find out which platform (Monster/LinkedIn/GitHub/..) gives you the most visibility.
What’s your specialty? (industry/vertical within IT or contract vs fulltime)
Tech space for be confusing and frustrating, especially for a non-technical person. When it comes to your career, you want to make sure that you are trusting recruiters who understand the domain (at least from a high level). A non-technical recruiter won’t be able to explain the client environment and what technologies are must-have vs nice-to-have and why.
Is this call regarding a job opportunity or just a status update?
This will help you market yourself more efficiently, whether it is for a specific role or for a general status update. Based on the nature of the call, do you want to take it now or later?
What is your history with this client/hiring manager? How long have you been working with them?
You want to be working with recruiters/agencies who know the clients and have a successful history, because they know the in’s and out’s of the client environment and hiring process. This can maximize your chances of getting the job by minimizing the surprises at the interview stage.
Are you the only one working on this role?
You want to know the competition. If the recruiter/agency you are working with has an “exclusive” order, this means:
a) They have a really good relationship with the client
b) They can tell you exactly what the competition landscape looks like.
What is the hiring process? Are there interview times booked?
Does the recruiter/agency know what to expect? Or are they just phishing for a resume to open doors with? If the timelines are set and clear, do they work for you?
How long has the job been open?
Sometimes the client is not sure what they are looking for and they use the interview process as a way to make up their mind. Or they have an internal candidate and they just want to make sure they are making the right choice. A job that has been open for more than 2 months is a red flag!
What is the full package? How flexible is the client?
Clients often look to save money by advertising the role with a lower rate than they’re willing to pay. If you genuinely feel your market rate is above the rate mentioned, it would not hurt to ask how flexible the client is willing to be.
What is next?
Always make sure that you are clear about the agency’s processes and next steps as it pertains to you. Are they sending your resume? When should you expect an answer? Can you talk to other recruiters in the same firm? What if you wanted to apply to a different job at the same client that they are sending your resume to?
Your conversations with recruiters should not be one way, it should be a dialogue in which you qualify their client list and their job opportunities and they qualify your skills and “fit” factor.
So, next time to talk to a recruiter for the first time, make sure to take an extra 2 minutes and ask questions so you can get to know them right at the get-go and avoid any time wasting down the line.