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How interviewing contractors is different

Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
Marshal

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 31062
    
232

"Agile Hiring" makes a point of saying it talks about hiring full time employees and not contractors. My question isn't about why you should prefer employees. My question is how interviewing is different.

My frist thought is at it would be a subset of techniques in the book. But the fact that the author makes a point of calling it out implies there is probably more to it.


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Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Hi Jeanne,

the most important difference that comes to my mind is that contractors are probably hired for a shorter time frame, and may leave easier, so you don't want to invest as much into them. Consequently, when hiring, I would probably want to shift the focus from "how easily can they acquire the required skills" to "how many of the required skills do they already posses?"

Makes sense?


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Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
Marshal

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 31062
    
232

Yes. But is still seems like techniques would be similar. Like how to get to the bottom of a phone screen.

And I do need contractors to learn quickly too. They need to learn my business and app.
Jimmy Clark
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2008
Posts: 2187
Interviewing contractors "may" be different than interviewing individuals for full-time, permanent positions in many or a few areas. The first thing that comes to mind is the type of questions asked. With a contractor you might focus on more operational topics related to what skills and abilities do they currently possess. With full-time candidates, you might focus on more strategic topics like what do you see yourself doing in the next three to five years. A lot will depend upon the length of the contract and contract type, e.g. staff augmentation or leadership. Also, there are different financial ramifications for hiring either type, so questions may also be different in this area as well.

Aside from the types of questions, the interview process may differ in the type of interviews and the number of interviews for each candidate, as well as the selection and sourcing process. Is there any third-party involved? The nature of the position and the organization's management style all play significant parts in how interviewing contractors differs from interviewing candidates for permanent employment.

A "contractor" is not hired in the same way as a permanent employee, so there should be differences in the selection/interviewing process. This is evidence of a healthy organizaiton.
Sean Landis
author
Greenhorn

Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 29
In Agile Hiring I focus on full time candidates for two reasons; one is philosophical, one is practical. The practical reason is that there are more things to consider for the full time employee and that allows me to explore more of the hiring process. As was pointed out, I may not be as interested in long-term potential for contractors. I would also focus on how tightly a contractor fits my requirements because I expect the contractor to hit the ground running. Tight job fit tends to dominate everything else and is very important when hiring contractors; that wouldn't give me license to discuss many other important things. When hiring full time, job fit is something that can be relaxed in deference to other qualities a long-term candidate possesses. I may be less concerned about behavioral weaknesses of a contractor too.

Sourcing is certainly a different beast, as is the offer and negotiation parts of hiring. That said, in my opinion, very little changes with respect to the interview of the candidate. We hire contractors from time to time for positions we usually fill with full time employees. The interview looks about the same. How we evaluate the results is different due to the differences I mention above. We've experimented with treating contractor interviews differently, but it has never added value.
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1872
    
  16

As a contractor I'm curious about this as well. How long do people stay in "permanent" roles these days? And how long does a contractor have to work somewhere before they start to become candidates for the kind of selection processes you're talking about for permanent staff?

I've worked in places as a contractor where they had contractors who'd been working there for years e.g. a utilities company that had fired all its permanent staff and took them back on as contractors the next week and wanted to keep the staff long term (but under a different heading in the balance sheet), or some ex-public sector organisations where the permanent staff were still able to refuse particular kinds of work, creating opportunities for contractors to become indispensible to the organisation. Meanwhile, there often seems to be a lot of "churn" in permanent roles, especially at the more junior end of the market, where changing jobs is often the best way to increase your salary and extend your skillset.

So how far do these factors influence hiring?


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Sean Landis
author
Greenhorn

Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 29
chris webster wrote:As a contractor I'm curious about this as well. How long do people stay in "permanent" roles these days? And how long does a contractor have to work somewhere before they start to become candidates for the kind of selection processes you're talking about for permanent staff?

I've worked in places as a contractor where they had contractors who'd been working there for years e.g. a utilities company that had fired all its permanent staff and took them back on as contractors the next week and wanted to keep the staff long term (but under a different heading in the balance sheet), or some ex-public sector organisations where the permanent staff were still able to refuse particular kinds of work, creating opportunities for contractors to become indispensible to the organisation. Meanwhile, there often seems to be a lot of "churn" in permanent roles, especially at the more junior end of the market, where changing jobs is often the best way to increase your salary and extend your skillset.

So how far do these factors influence hiring?


Hi Chris,
Joel on Software did an unscientific survey of his readers regarding length of tenure for FT folks (as I recall), and it seemed to be around 2 - 3 years. This matches my intuition in reviewing hundreds of resumes. This is the average but if you just focus on excellent companies you find the numbers go up.

We hire many people full-time who were previously contractors. One thing I recommend looking for when reviewing resumes is how stable the candidate is; or conversely, whether the candidate is a job hopper. The evaluation is much easier for FT folks than for contractors. Contractor stints are usually 3, 6, 9, or 12 months. They may be expressed in the resume as multiple stints for the same company. They may be under one contract employer with multiple clients, or not. It can be more difficult to interpret a contractor career history than a FT career history.

Every job change has a story. As a resume reviewer, the story may be very clear to me, but usually it's sort of like putting together a crossword puzzle, and I only have a quarter of the pieces. After the phone interview, maybe I have three quarters of the pieces WRT job changes. As I put the puzzle picture together, the increased fidelity enhances my ability to make a good decision. I go into a lot of detail on these topics because they can be very influential factors.
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1872
    
  16

...One thing I recommend looking for when reviewing resumes is how stable the candidate is; or conversely, whether the candidate is a job hopper...


Many recruiters don't make the same distinction you mention here, which is why it can be difficult for contractors to get back into permanent employment, regardless of how motivated they might be to find a good long term job. And on the other side, I've had interviews for short term contracts with some organisations that give contractors the "permie" interview, with lots of fluffy stuff about how they're all one big family and everybody stays there forever. Usually a warning sign in my experience, as these tend to be the stories organisations want to present (or believe) about themselves, rather than the usually less flattering reality.
Sean Landis
author
Greenhorn

Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 29
chris webster wrote:
...One thing I recommend looking for when reviewing resumes is how stable the candidate is; or conversely, whether the candidate is a job hopper...


Many recruiters don't make the same distinction you mention here, which is why it can be difficult for contractors to get back into permanent employment, regardless of how motivated they might be to find a good long term job. And on the other side, I've had interviews for short term contracts with some organisations that give contractors the "permie" interview, with lots of fluffy stuff about how they're all one big family and everybody stays there forever. Usually a warning sign in my experience, as these tend to be the stories organisations want to present (or believe) about themselves, rather than the usually less flattering reality.


Hi Chris,
You bring up a few interesting points. First is that we in IT need to be conscious of how our career choices impact our hireability (maybe Webster will consider this a word in their next edition). It's not a good thing, for example, to have a bunch of 3 month stints on your contractor resume.

The interview you describe hardly sounds like an interview at all. Fluff implies the company at least doesn't know how to hire. Excessive flattery implies they are desperate. There's nothing wrong with selling your company, but quality candidates usually have pretty good BS detectors. It's easy to sell a product you believe in, but it's hard to find a buyer for that rundown 1973 Pinto.
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1872
    
  16

Sean Landis wrote:... hireability (maybe Webster will consider this a word in their next edition)....


Hey, it works for this Webster!
 
 
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