How IT contractors can get more out of technology recruiters

December might be a traditionally quiet time for IT contractors, but I can still get about 200 applications within a working day for contracts in Project & Programme Management, Business Analysis, Testing, Service Management, Project Support/Coordination, Desktop or Network Support, writes a veteran IT recruiter.

When you’re wasting your time

It surprises me how many experienced contractors seem unaware of this and put themselves forward for a contract up to a week after it has first been advertised, or leave a voicemail asking to be called to have a chat about the role to see if they might be suitable. It’s almost as if they think nobody else applied!

Most job boards keep roles on there for at least a week, which is OK for more specialised roles or perm jobs, but no client wants to hire a contractor in a couple of months’ time. So I can tell you that within eight or so working hours, applicants will have been shortlisted, interviewed and submitted for the role. After that, you are probably wasting your time applying.

In many cases, agencies are constrained on the number of CVs they submit, either by a supply agreement or a portal but even where this is not the case, consultants will have moved on to another role and will only revisit a role if the client doesn’t like the batch of CVs sent or the job spec changes, both of which happen very rarely.

Save your breath

As you can imagine, it’s not feasible for me to ignore the 150 or so CVs and call 25 people back for a chat. They may not match the role very well and it would take too long. A better use of my time is to look through the CVs, select the best matches and then call them to discuss their experience, availability and rate and submit them to the client.

So what are the implications of this for you, the contractor wanting to be put forward? Firstly, you need to understand that there is no point in explaining to me how your experience makes you a fit for the role. Your CV must make that clear by itself, because it will be passed on to a manager, often through another pair of hands and therefore must make the case independently. With smaller companies we can make a difference, but they are not big users of contract techies, and medium/large companies have transactional processes in place (portals/neutral vendors/managing agents) to cope with the internal approvals and the numbers hired. That’s why when you’re talking to a consultant you can sense they are zoning out when you are trying to explain why you are a ‘great match’ for the contract.

Stop the zoning out

Fortunately, there are a list of things you can do to stop that zoning out from happening at all. Follow these steps and you’ll increase your chances of going from being one of 150 or so candidates, to one of the three or four being submitted to the hiring manager.

  • Have your CV ready and apply straight away. Some agencies only look at the first 30-50 candidates/ applications, so you need to be one of these. I always have the nagging feeling that the 137th CV will be a perfect match, so I look through a lot of them, but that’s just me. Being thorough in this regard requires a great deal of concentration and most recruiters don’t bother to go to such ends. Oh, and you don’t need to bother with the standard covering letter (which some job boards supply) because increasingly, nobody reads those. That’s because applicants very rarely change the preset wording.
  • Run a search of your chosen job board every 90 minutes or so during the day, in order to catch new opportunities quickly.
  • With 150 CVs having to be shrunk to a handful, the mindset of the consultant is to look for a reason to exclude you. They are under time-pressure and know that there will be at least 15-20 CVs in there which will be a fairly good match for the job. How can you change this? Well, you must be a good match to start with. This won’t work if you’re not. Then:
  • Call up the consultant who is shortlisting. If you can get through, great, if not, leave a voicemail but don’t go rabbiting on about your experience at XYZ making you suitable. That's for the recruiter to decide; just say “Good Afternoon. My name is.............., I have applied for the .................. contract in ...................... (location). I just want you to know that I can do that job; I’m available immediately and happy with £450 per day (quote a rate within the range advertised).” I can guarantee this will have a positive impact on the recruiter.

Why? Well, firstly, they will be grateful that you haven’t bored them by talking through your entire work experience in tedious detail. Secondly, they will think you are a professional contractor who knows the ropes; appreciates their time and understands what they need to know. In fact, you’re quickly shaping up to be the sort of candidate they want to put in front of their client.

Incredulous? Uncomfortable?

And thirdly, if you are a strong match you are saving their time ploughing through the CVs of candidates who aren’t. The net effect is you will shift their mindset from wanting to find reasons to exclude you; to wanting to go ahead and include you. I’d wager that when they get to your CV -- they may even make a beeline straight for it; they will look at it longer and harder than the others.

There are contractors and recruiters out there who will be incredulous or uncomfortable about what I’ve outlined in this piece, so I’m remaining in the shadows. But believe me, as a recruiter with over 30 years’ experience at placing IT contractors, the goings-on I’ve outlined at agencies, and in the mind of agents, is exactly how it is. 

Editor's Note: Join The CV and Interview Advisors for their FREE webinar on Advanced CV and LinkedIn Strategies for 2017. January 9th at 7.15pm. Register here.

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Wednesday 21st December 2016