Contractors' Questions: Must I deal with intrusive surveys, agents?

Contractor’s Question: I am due to start a contract in the next few weeks but first face an 8-page document entitled ‘Occupational Health Screening Questionnaire.’ Almost every aspect of personal health is probed in this questionnaire, which also asks me to give full consent for access to my medical records.

As I find this intrusive, especially as I’ll only be a temp engineer for an IT brand, I’m starting to think I should be more tolerant of the constant stream of agents calling me up about all sorts of other contracts. Only issue with them is that they’ll only put me forward if I give two references. If I do, that’ll be another intrusion, this time for my clients. Any tips?

Expert’s Answer: Regarding the questionnaire, it is very unusual in our experience to have such a comprehensive health screening form for a limited company contractor. In this case, and if our screening staff were involved, we’d be inclined to talk to the client and try to understand the rationale behind it, and the intended use of the data. 

Of course ultimately, it’s the client’s choice as to what questions they ask (within the bounds of the law) and if you’re uncomfortable, you may need to walk away. 

In terms of the calls from agents, the situation you describe is very much the first approach they make -- an agent wanting to talk to previous people you’ve worked with or on behalf of.

Agents do this for two reasons. One is to genuinely try to understand your strengths and development areas but also, as you seem to suspect, to extend their network and initiate conversations with managers who hire contractors. While these might be legitimate reasons, you understandably don’t want your clients bothered by every recruitment agent who rings you.

It may be helpful for you to know that there are now platforms available which allow you to collect assessments on your previous work and publish them for new clients (and agents) to view. As these are independent, the data is seen as valuable by agents and client managers alike.

You might still probably want to allow certain agents to contact certain previous clients or client representatives of yours - for more 'colour' perhaps, or because you’re building a deeper relationship. But in other instances by using such sites you can point a prospective client to a full, relevant and meaningful profile, hopefully instead of having the agent phishing on the phone

The expert was Simon Bichara, founder of HiredByMe, a specialist in instant pre-employment screening.

Tuesday 20th Jan 2015
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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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