Top tips for finding your next IT contract

Whether you’re embarking on the search for a temporary IT contract for the very first time or are a seasoned computer contractor venturing once more unto the breach, it can be a daunting experience, writes Michael Bennett, a director at ReThink Recruitment.

In a market full of recruitment agencies, umbrella companies and organisations themselves offering roles and benefits; it’s understandable that some IT contract candidates need a helping hand along the way. So how can you ensure you have the best chance of success and find a suitable contract time and time again?

Generally-speaking there are four sourcing options on offer, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. The first and perhaps the most common are recruitment agencies.

Option 1: Agents

A recruitment consultancy will have a whole host of positions available and it is wise to research its credibility and look for the tell-tale signs that it is not only reputable, but also suits your needs. In a market saturated with recruitment agencies, it’s a good idea to use one that specialises in not only contract assignments, but also the sector you specialise in. It will then not only be well placed to offer you advice about your contract career, but it will also have a good network of organisations seeking contractors on an ongoing basis.

Another sign that an agency is reputable is if it belongs to a trade organisation – in the UK this might be APSCo, REC or IRP – because it will be audited each year, ensuring it is compliant.  Finally, check the testimonials and PSL of each consultancy to further help you measure their credibility.

Option 2: Boards

The second option is job boards – and there are hundreds out there. Be sure to check the credibility of the site or board in question before you spend too much time applying. While it may seem easy to submit your CV to lots of roles advertised online, it may very well be time wasted if you are, for instance, applying for positions that either no longer exist, or worse still aren’t what they say ‘on the tin.’ This is unfortunately still a common complaint among IT contractors. Try using ContractorUK's very own contract search wizard to search the major jobboards in one click for the latest IT contract jobs or www.itcontractjobs.co.uk

Option 3: Go direct

The third sourcing option available is directly via an organisation which is hiring.  Not all businesses will use a recruitment agency to source candidates so it is also worth keeping an eye on the career section of companies you might like to work at.  Keep a history of those you’ve have worked at in the past – if you have a good track record with them it stands to reason that they would take you on again. And don’t assume they will find you – while hiring managers will have a record of previous employees they won’t necessarily contact every previous supplier when an opening arises.

Option 4: Misc

The fourth category of sourcing options is simply everything not listed above. This includes social media, and offline resources such as trade magazines.  The explosion in social media in recent years has meant that it is now one of the most popular, not to mention successful, ways to source a job.  Do you, for instance, have a LinkedIn account set up which is full of your work history and clearly states that you are seeking contract assignments?  Recruiters and direct hirers are increasingly turning to platforms like LinkedIn to not only advertise positions, but to also source contractors, so ensure your profile is up to scratch.

And while the shift to online sourcing models continues to gather pace, it’s wise to also consider the traditional print media in your job search. Industry publications still have a huge readership and consequently are still very much a platform for advertising positions. Ensure you keep an eye on these in your job search too.  Last but by no means least is your professional network of contacts which, as any seasoned IT contractor will know, can prove invaluable in your career. Keep in touch with former colleagues – both contractors and permanent employees – on a regular basis. They will be able to flag any positions they know of and vice versa.

Applying for contracts – Do’s and Don’ts

Once you are familiar with your sourcing options, it’s wise to keep in mind some ‘do’s and don’ts’ when putting yourself forward for a contract. For the purpose of this piece, I’ll focus on the two most popular avenues – agencies and job boards.

When using job boards don’t be tempted to apply for every position that vaguely matches your skill set. Although we all know that when we are out of work we want to find something quickly, you can do more harm than good but adopting this ‘scatter gun’ tactic. You will quickly be seen as an individual who doesn’t take their career seriously and you may even find yourself blacklisted. Be sure, however, when using job boards that you not only have your up-to-date CV stored on the site, but that you also – where possible – fill in your profile on the site with keywords for your skills, experience and what you are looking for.

When using recruitment agencies, the same can be said about applying for role after role as warned against above with job boards. Recruiters will often go the extra mile to help individuals who are serious about their contracting career, but they will soon blacklist someone who appears to just ‘want any job’. Also, bear in mind that if you choose a less than reputable recruitment agency you run the risk of being left open to unscrupulous tactics. We’ve heard of several horror stories of contractors applying for contracts that simply do not exist, being promised one rate and this changing at the last minute, and even their information being put forward for a role without their consent. Tactics like this should hold no place in the industry, however they do occur which is why it is so important that you research an agency before committing to working with it.

And finally…

Contracting with IT skills can be a fantastic career option. It can prove stimulating; lucrative, a means to quickly up-skill yourself and offer you a degree of flexibility with a better work-life balance than your ‘permie’ counterparts. By following the above advice, you have a greater chance of achieving all that without getting burned and of course securing your next IT contract before the competition.

Friday 21st June 2013