The Living Death of the Contract Recruiter

Jun 12, 2012
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

As the business community sheds recruiters from full-time positions, many organizations bring on contract recruiters to use when required and dump when not required. I am here to help you to avoid making one of life’s more miserable career decisions: becoming a contact recruiter. Here’s the advice:

Do not ever become a contract recruiter.

Allow me to repeat. (The gravity of the situation bears repeating, and you just might thank me some day.) Do not ever become a contract recruiter.

Now let me tell you why.

The allure of contract recruiting can be seductive. It offers variety, oftentimes far more cash, and the ability to take control of one’s life and career. Incorporate in Delaware, anoint yourself as President, and off you go. The reasons to jump into this situation have broad appeal … to the recruiter who has grown bored, to the recruiter who is between jobs, or to the recruiter who fancies themselves as a visionary who wants to change the world. (Count me in that last category, and, by the way, you will change nothing. Zero.) A few quick illusionary examples for your consideration:

  • You can now work when you want to work and play when you want to play — all while avoiding the corporate politics. (Work half the year, lunch with LaBron James, the other half. Sounds like fun?)
  • You can act as a consultant and have access to senior-level management on talent acquisition strategy. (Finally, people who will see your brilliance.)
  • You can supercharge your career by being in a number of organizations over a short time, do great things, and bring all of this to your next full-time gig. (Finally, a shot at the big recruiting jobs!)

It sounds lovely, but the downside of this career move far outweighs the upside. So let me give you five reasons why contract recruiting is almost surely a bad thing for you.

  1. Unrealistic Expectations. Contract recruiters are usually brought in at the very last moment (translation — way too late) and are expected to go at breakneck speed and hire a number of hard-to-find people with minimal tools. Good recruiting takes time, and there are few shortcuts. Hire 12 to 14 software/IT types in four weeks? This is dumb.
  1. Recruiting as Magic. The demands placed upon contract recruiters can be astonishing. The expectations and level of desperation from hiring managers who absolutely hate the HR/recruiting function at said client lie with you and they expect miracles. The expectation of miracles by either you or the client is a poor strategy.
  1. Call Your Network. Call my network? Do you think that contract recruiters come into an organization with a virtual rolodex of people who we can simply dial up and tell them to come and join us in this new and wonderful place? We are recruiters, not magicians. As an aside, almost all clients are astonished that the best and the brightest do not want to stand in line to work at their company. When the time comes to sit down with the client and tell them that they are not viewed well in the industry, use old technology, or have a product that is not sexy, let’s just say it will not be a very good day for you.
  1. You Have No Relationships. Making hires takes some fundamental knowledge of the organization as well as the people who you can count on to help to make this happen. When you contract, you go into the organization cold and are devoid of said relationships. This lack of organizational grease only slows down your results as key people vacation/travel and job descriptions endlessly change. Candidates seethe as they wait for an offer, and hiring managers are not too pleased either. (Can you feel the love yet?)
  1. Billing, Marketing, Benefits, etc. You alone are responsible for your next gig. You alone must do the marketing, the billing, and the collecting. You are also responsible for the taxes and enhanced insurance required to run your own shop. This can be expensive, time-consuming, and very frustrating. You seldom have any of the benefits you are used to, like health care or a paid day off. Finance pays slowly, as you are now just a vendor. If you have a family or a mortgage, this is not a way to live.

With few exceptions, most organizations that go from hiring one contractor to hiring another are places that neither value nor understand the role recruiting plays in building great organizations. Simply put, they do not get it. If you try to explain it, their eyes glaze over. Their manpower planning is poor. They see recruiting as an unpleasant expense as opposed to an investment. This is often why they need contractors — because they have neither the brains nor the foresight to value those individuals who find the employees they need to be successful. All of this creates a wretched situation that pleases no one and often leads to much angst.

If you ever choose this road be sure it is absolutely necessary, stay for the shortest possible time and get back to a full-time gig, because doing this for a career is a very bad deal.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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