Working With a Contract Staffing Firm
Staffing firms have become a popular resource for IT professionals looking for new positions or more flexible work schedules. These organizations often have extensive networks in the business community and can open doors to contract and contract-to-hire opportunities you might not otherwise hear about. They can also custom-match IT talent to assignments that suit all of their preferences.
To get the most out of your time with a staffing firm, you need to know how to build an effective partnership:
- Is it right for you? Contract employment offers many benefits––including the ability to customize your work hours, gain exposure to new technologies and industries, and develop new contacts––but it’s not for everyone. Ask yourself: Do I adapt quickly to new work environments? Can I learn different company practices and procedures with minimal training? Am I able to let go of projects easily once they’re completed? If you responded “no” to any or all of these questions, you may not be the best candidate for this type of work.
- Making a match. When pursuing employment with a staffing firm, take the time to research your choices carefully. Ask colleagues and members of local professional associations for their recommendations of reputable organizations. Find out about the staffing firm’s history in the business, including its financial stability and whether it specializes in IT positions. Also, take into account the professionalism of the staff: Are they courteous? Do they understand your needs? A staffing manager who is unfamiliar with in-demand programming skills, for example, isn’t likely to find you suitable opportunities in the field. Ask which skills the companies they work with request most often.
- Starting off. After you have selected a firm, you’ll meet with a staffing manager for an in-person interview. During the discussion, you’ll be asked about your experience, qualifications, expectations and availability. Answer all questions honestly and candidly. For example, if you ultimately want a full-time position or you prefer to work for companies with UNIX-based systems, let your contact know. Also note any limitations in your schedule––such as the fact that you must be off work by 5 p.m. two nights a week to make it to a continuing education course in network security. You’ll help the staffing manager identify assignments that best meet your needs.
- Getting out there. Once a suitable opening becomes available, your staffing manager will give you an overview of the client company, project and pay rate so you can decide whether to accept the assignment. Stay in touch with your staffing manager after you begin work and let him or her know of any questions or concerns. For instance, you may have been told you would be focusing on a server upgrade but instead have been asked to work on another initiative. Your representative at the staffing firm can help resolve the situation with the client, serving as an advocate on your behalf.
It’s important to approach all assignments with a professional attitude and flexible mindset. Even short-term projects can offer many benefits, including opportunities to make valuable industry contacts and enhance your skill set. Be punctual, abide by company policies and do your best to fit in with the corporate culture. When your workload is light, volunteer to assist colleagues with other projects.
With a little extra effort, you can ensure an effective working relationship with a staffing firm. Select your organization carefully, be open and honest about your employment needs and take steps to stand out as a contractor when you do join a client company. You’ll keep busy with contracting assignments and help fulfill your professional goals.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology (www.roberthalftechnology.com), a leading provider of IT professionals for various incentives, with more than 100 locations in North America and Europe.