i. Agency basics for IT contractors – CV sending

IT contractors often ask how many agencies they should send their CV 'on spec' to. Should the jobbing IT contractor decide by estimating how many CV and recruitment agents they can keep track of and manage? Or as today's market for freelance IT contracts tightens, with competition for contracts intensifying, is a 'scattergun' approach to as many agents as possible the recommended course?

The answer to these questions tends to be very much a personal decision based on a lot of individual preferences and assumptions about how things work.

Key factors tend to be:

1. Perception of supply/demand for my skills - what's the contract market demand v. competition of the same skills?
2. Geographic range - where are you willing to work?
3. Specialist agencies - some agencies are THE only ones you should be with in your specified skill or client area.
4. Location Agencies - some agencies are THE only ones you should work with in that geographic area.
5. Rates - some agencies are deemed to charge higher margins.
6. Preferred/Secondary suppliers - some agencies are better placed because of being preferred suppliers in certain locations.

As a consequence of assessing these factors, an IT contractor will either:

1. Blitz their CV to as many agencies as possible, using one of the CV distribution websites.
2. Make a short list of agencies from jobs research/word of mouth - and hit them.

What some don't realise is that blitzing can come back to haunt them, for two main reasons:

1. When a client receives a duplicate CV (i.e. your CV submitted from two or more agencies) they tend to go straight in the bin, as the client doesn't wish to get involved in a tussle between agencies.
2. The contractor may get besieged with telephone calls and emails.

Needless to say, as someone who has used both approaches, they can each have their place, depending on your situation.

For a newcomer, I would suggest starting with the shortlist/agent relationship approach. Follow this, and you can refine your CV, learn about the market, get some interviews under their belt and all being well; secure that first contract.

Suggested strategy for a newcomer to IT contracting:

1. Do your research and find a handful of agencies that know your skill area well.
2. Ideally they will be Preferred Suppliers in the big "contractor employer" businesses.
3. Spend the time building a good relationship with the agents, so that you 'come to mind' as available when a matching job arrives.

Benefits of good relations with an agency:

1. CV Feedback

- CV structure
- gaps, economical truth, insufficient detail
- buzz words
- having a clear and focussed CV

2. Client Feedback

- reasons for not getting the interview
- unspoken reasons for the above
- potential CV 'put-offs' for client
- potential CV "attractors" for client

3. Interview brief

- likely interviewer/s
- typical interview structure e.g. formal + technical
- heads-up on possible technical exam
- client culture (so you know what to expect, from mentality to dress code)


I would suggest that the newcomer sets their goal, not to "get a contract" in the beginning, but to bridge to that rapidly, with the following goals:

1. Build agency shortlist.
2. Submit CVs and contact agents to discuss - beginning of agent relationship.
3. Aim for X number of CV submissions to client.
4. Aim for Y number of interviews.

Then, use the feedback you get from your experiences to incorporate into your approach.

With those goals as guides, the contracts will come.


- Listen and learn as you go.
- Adapt and evolve your CV and interview approach.
- Build good relationships with agents.

ContractorUK has partnered with the UK's leading authority on Contractor CVs to provide a FREE review of your CV and LinkedIn profile. Contact The CV & Interview Advisors and one of their team will get back to you to discuss if your CV and LinkedIn profile matches up with industry best practice.