If you aren’t using contract labor today, chances are you soon will be. Contract workers (also known as freelancers, consultants and gig workers) now make up a huge and growing percentage of the workforce. A poll from NPR/Marist shows 20 percent of American workers now do contract labor either as a full-time career or to augment their existing income and in the next few years that number could double.
Using freelancers can be beneficial for employers, who can avoid the overhead cost and risk of bringing on full-time employees and take advantage of experts in the field to tackle important short-term projects without breaking their budgets. However, recruiting independent professionals can be more complicated than finding full-time staff. Contract workers have different kinds of resumes, search across different job sites, and have different expectations of the job and their employer. Yet companies have been slow to adapt their hiring processes to find, assess, and onboard this growing segment of the workforce.
To find the best contractors, recruiters need to rethink their search criteria and consider the kinds of skills and attributes that are required to get the job done. Here’s how to get started:
- Sell your company culture. Although not all benefits may apply to contract workers, there are aspects of your culture that matter to people looking for temporary jobs. You want to find the candidates who identify with your culture. The more descriptive of your culture and the company values you can be in your job posting, the more likely you are to attract the right kind of applicants. Plus, you never know when a contract worker may become a full-time worker and having someone who appreciates corporate values will support a smooth transition.
- Look for self-starters. Contractors generally receive less onboarding and guidance from management, and many of them work alone, off-site, and set their own hours. So you need to be sure the people you hire are self-motivated, deadline-driven, and able to problem-solve on their own. No matter how talented a contractor is, if they require constant supervision, or ignore project deadlines and deliverables, they won’t be worth the money. A pre-employment assessment helps you identify the candidates that possess self-starting qualities.
- Screen candidates with assessments. Over the past few years dozens of contractor job boards, like Upwork and Aquent, have sprung up making it easier for contractors and employers to connect, and creating an influx of applicants. A pre-employment test is a great way to get to know candidates and supplement ratings that job boards provide. Assessments make it clear whether a candidate’s skills and traits align with the requirements of the job.
- Check your network. As with any recruiting effort, the best candidates often come from referrals – especially if you are looking for experts with specific skill sets. Seasoned contractors should have a network of people who can comment on the quality and timeliness of their work. However, you have to ask around to find them. Try reaching out to other managers in your company, peers in your social network, and your team for suggestions of who might be a good fit. Someone in your network may know the perfect candidate. In addition, make it a practice to ask existing, successful contractors for referrals. Perhaps you could ask contractors whom they would recommend for different job functions, as a standard part of the exit interview process.
- Create a database of past workers. Large companies often use hundreds of contractors, many of whom will work for multiple managers at different times and different rates. To get the most value from these contractors – without overpaying them – encourage your company to capture information about your temporary talent pool, including the skills and attributes they brought to the project, their rates, and the quality of their work. Creating a shared knowledge base of candidate profiles, assessments results, pay, and project links will ensure everyone in the company can easily find the best people and avoid reusing talent who isn’t delivering the quality of work you need.
Today’s talent pool is full of gig workers eager for an opportunity to prove their value to your organization. Making these small changes will help you create a recruiting strategy that gets the most value from the best people and build a bench of contractors ready to tackle the next big project on your to-do list.
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