Tech contractors, is your agent an Account Manager or New Business Recruiter?

You too might be a glass half full-type of person, but having worked as an IT recruiter for over 25 years and having endured three recessions, even optimists like me now believe it’s impossible to ignore the writing on the wall for the UK economy.

As a staffing agency boss, you might not expect me to open an article seeking to outline the two main types of recruiter with our country’s ominous financial background in the foreground, writes Matt Collingwood, managing director of IT recruitment agency VIQU.

But the linkage is strong. In fact, there are lots of early 30-somethings and younger coming to us for IT contractor jobs, who have never worked in a recession. The mere utterance of the ‘r-word’ puts the fear of God into them! And one of the divine rites of passage such first-timers must undergo if they are to stand any chance of succeeding as an IT contractor is spotting an Account Manager from a New Business Recruiter.

One PM opportunity = 300 hundred applicants

Before I spell out the differences between these two agent-types, do be aware that for newcomers especially, it really is now very much the case of ‘stand a chance of succeeding’ with an IT contractor job as the recession looms.

Only last week one of our directors, Mike, advertised for a generalist Project Manager. Three days in, he had received over 300 CVs.

This is a volume we haven’t experienced since mid-2020, at the height of the pandemic. The number of CVs is an unmanageable amount for Mike to review, let alone for him to contact each and every applicant.

My gloomy forecast

Let me say here, both Mike and I understand the frustrations that job-seekers have when applying for assignments online -- jobs often get filled rapidly, CVs are agonised over and finally submitted only for you to potentially never hear back nor receive any constructive criticism, and clients can demand applications are into them for a decision no later than 48 hours of the contractor job advert going live. Unfortunately, with the economic storm clouds about to empty, the IT contractor market is only going to get tougher, and job board applications will become less successful as candidate-numbers rise exponentially.

Alternatively, rather than being an IT contractor going forward alongside 299 other applicants for a prospective client’s single assignment, how about being the one candidate going forward to perhaps 10 clients?

Read on and I will reveal how you can do this. But in short, you simply need to identify and partner up with the right kind of recruitment agent.

Fancy a back scratch?

As I mentioned at the outset, there are two types of IT recruiters. The first are Account Managers -- also known as ‘farmer recruiters.’

These are the custodians of one or two clients for their recruitment agency. Most of their jobs come from that one big client, and so they have limited options outside of it. If you were sat on the other side of the table as a hiring manager, you would hear these agencies referred to as a ‘Preferred Supplier List’ agency, or PSL agency. So the issue is, even if you’re able to spend your client’s budget growing a team with the Account Manager’s help, this Account Manager agent is unlikely to scratch your back when you need help securing a new IT contractor assignment.

The other breed of IT recruiter is New Business Recruiters -- also known 'hunter gatherers' or '360 recruiters.' These are an altogether different beast and one that is far more likely to be of use to you for that new opportunity.

New Business Recruiters are the agents who are always looking for new clients and pride themselves on having a portfolio containing, say, 50 to 100 clients. Their style of recruitment is to take an outstanding technology contractor to market, often presenting the contractor to multiple clients.

New Business Recruiter Case Study

Here is an example. Paul is a Project Manager and was my contractor client at a large Leeds-based retailer. Last month, when Paul’s assignment came to a close, I took his CV and presented him to EIGHT retail clients who I had worked with previously. From there, he secured three interviews and two offers for new assignments.

Paul had been loyal to me and our business. And as a new business recruiter, I was able to return that loyalty. Our relationship with contractors is a two-way street. It is something Account Manager recruiters cannot normally offer.

So, how do you figure out if the individual agent you are working with is a New Business Recruiter?

Two key questions to ask to find out; are:

  • How many clients do they work with?
  • How many new clients have they secured in the last 12 months?

If the agent tells you they provide their services to one or two key clients, you know the answer. That is great for them and the client, but very very often it won’t help you.

How to identify a New Business Recruiter

By contrast, a New Business Recruiter will have certain traits that are easy to identify and will benefit you and your job search down the line:

  • They love to network -- whether that’s on LinkedIn or in-person.
  • They are a name-dropper! If you ask even an excellent Account Manager who they have worked with recently, they’ll find it difficult to mention more than a couple of clients. Remember, they are single client-centric. Whereas a New Business Recruiter could talk your ear off for hours discussing the companies they have worked with and the individual talent managers and HR professionals they’re in contact with. Ready those ear plugs!
  • They are proactive, and always busy. It might sound odd, but it is a great sign if they aren’t always immediately available to answer your call!
  • They talk like a salesperson.

Lastly, some clarity

Finally, let me be clear, I know some upstanding Account Managers. And I’m certainly not here to bash any type of agent or to state that one type is universally better than the other. Account Managers and New Business Recruiters both play important roles within the staffing industry, providing very different services depending on individual client needs. However, when it comes to an IT contractor’s best interests, I think it’s important to be clear on who you are working with, so that you are aware of who might be able to help you land your next tech contract when you need it.

Profile picture for user Matt Collingwood

Written by Matt Collingwood

Matt Collingwood is the Managing Director of VIQU Ltd. an IT recruitment and project-based consultancy company with offices in Birmingham and Southampton. Matt is also the co-founder of the Recruitment Canaries, a network of West Midlands based recruitment agencies who encourage collaboration, best practice and upholding the standards and ethics of the recruitment industry.

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