Charlie Wood talks contracting.
July 19, 2012
The world of recruitment has to adapt and progress along with patterns within the job market. Charlie Wood, one of our senior contracts consultants offers some insight into the current changes within the recruitment market concerning contracting and freelance professionalism.
In relation to the candidates you deal with, have you noticed any particular patterns concerning the emergence of contractors within the IT and general business sector?
Since the credit crunch began there has been an increase in the number of IT and business change candidates seeking contract work. This has been partially driven by redundancies within the permanent market, where skilled people in a position to take on contract positions are trying it out, and many for the first time.
It also seems to be driven by the lack of stability felt by staff in permanent roles these days. Due to the number of programmes and projects that have been kicked off recently, we have seen a strong increase in the size of the IT and business change contract markets, both in terms of roles and contractors over the last three years. Some of these projects are driven by regulatory changes and cost-cutting exercises (particularly within the Financial Services industry), and others that may have been delayed during the worst of the crisis are now being driven by the need to grow the business.
There are a broad range of project skills in demand, from project and programme management to PMO and testing. There is also a noticeable shift in the contract market due to the last ten years of offshoring development, so a lot of smaller companies without the economies of scale to offshore are crying out for all types of developers, both contract and permanent.
There are over 4.2 million self-employed individuals in the UK at the moment. In your personal opinion, what does a contractor or freelance professional need to stand out from the crowd?
I think the key requirement for all contractors is flexibility. There has been a lot of talk recently about what makes a good contractor, and with the increase in the number of previously permanent employees seeking to move into the contract market this has become more important than ever. Flexibility with rate expectations, or to look at different locations and working patterns, and the flexibility to go out of your way to make sure that the client is happy and will recommend your service every time – these are all key to being a professional contractor and being treated as such.
Above all, a good contractor should remember that they are being engaged to help the company in a specific and often finite way. Whether it is to deliver a particular piece of work or to assist in an exercise, delivery should be their focus. Avoiding office or company politics wherever possible, working the hours necessary to deliver results, and finding ways to add value and exceed expectations will cement your reputation with clients and agencies alike.
As people move between companies more, and as social media runs rampant throughout the workplace, the market in the UK becoming a lot smaller when it comes to reputation and referencing, and a good contractor should always have that at the forefront of their mind.
Head Resourcing deal with permanent and contract workers. Are there any particular sub sectors that are demanding more contractors than permanent employees right now?
We have found, particularly in 2012, that the same skillsets are currently in demand from employers on both a permanent and a contract basis, and this seems to be the case across the board. The Financial Services market is probably ‘contractor heavy’ right now and looks to remain so until the latest round of regulatory, integration and divestment programmes are completed. Whilst the demand for permanent employees has stayed strong for us over the last twelve months, there hasn’t been a significant shift away from contract resources from any particular sector. We are still looking for large numbers of business change project resources (business analysts, project managers and testers) across the UK for a range of clients.
Through your experience, have there been any particular issues with finding contractor candidates work?
Over the last three years the contract market for IT and business change has been buoyant to say the least. While the contract market is slowing down slightly from the peaks it reached last year, there are still a number of roles where there are clear skill shortages and many contractors are walking into roles within days of completing their previous ones. There are a lot of senior managers looking for contract or interim work, whether it is an influx of permanent redundancies from the public and Financial Services sectors or a lack of large programmes requiring new external managers – there are certainly large numbers of applicants for any programme roles we may advertise. Also, the lack of mainframe or legacy roles in the market means that a large number of candidates with these skills have to re-train, or up skill.
Finally, do you think contractors hold any advantages over the permanent job market?
A permanent role doesn’t really feel permanent anymore with the uncertainty in the economy in general. Years ago a job was for life, but more recently this is not the case and larger numbers of candidates are realising this, hence an influx in contractor applicants over the past few years. The contract market is still relatively strong, rates are generally still high and as long as contractors are realistic in their expectations, are flexible and reliable there are still plenty of opportunities out there. The professional contractor who treats his clients and colleagues with respect, who works hard to always deliver and exceed expectations will always be required. While contracting tends not to give the ‘stability’ of a permanent position, the financial rewards and the freedom it can allow is certainly an advantage to thousands of people we speak to on a monthly basis.
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