Categorized | alan's blog

Bring on Utopia

Bring on Utopia

I finished last week by saying that we really need to start to think about how the contractor recruitment market needs to change if we are to get away from the commoditised, one-size-fits-all, dystopian model we are currently stuck with. That model works quite well for the recruiters but it’s not helping a lot of contractors and perhaps also isn’t really helping the end clients. Time for Utopia perhaps?

First though we have to accept that the contractor market – or at least the IT/Telecoms market where I work – is increasingly split into two discrete areas. One grouping – probably the largest by far – contains all the bulk, generalised but still important skills. The other grouping is rather more varied, and contains people who have either specialised or senior skills (or both!).

For the former group the current market does actually work. Well, it does if you ignore the increasing pressure to offshore such roles. The only real problem is the old one of persuading the agents that these skills are actually transferable across industry verticals, but let’s not get too optimistic. Generally speaking these guys don’t have that much of a problem assuming there’s work for them to do.

However the other group present a different challenge, the one I was talking about last week. Too often these are the guys who get stuck because the agents don’t know who they are and what they can do. The ones where keyword matching has little effect and who have to pray the agent has enough wit to read and understand their CV.

So how do we persuade the agents that these guys need a different approach and need to be sold proactively rather than hit and hope?

How about they pay the agent rather than the client? Just like actors do already? “Ah hah!” I hear you cry, “You can’t charge work seekers for finding them work”. Well no, you can’t, that’s enshrined in the Agency Regulations. But what if the Agency Regulations don’t apply? Say, for example, by the worker (and their company) opting out of the provisions of the Agency Regulations altogether? Then the agent stops being a work-finder and becomes an outsourced marketing operation

So how does that help?

For one thing, the better the agent knows the contractor, the more likely he is to be able to sell them when an opening appears. When filing a new role, rather than waiting for the right CV to appear through Jobserve – along with two hundred useless ones – he will have a stable of good people and will be able to suggest one (or two) to the client right away. Also he can go to the client with a zero margin offer. Also he has to look after his contractors for a reasonable cut of the gross and keep them fed with work or they’ll simply go elsewhere. The more high-value contractors you have in work, the more money you make – but without the tedious rework and box-ticking that goes on at the moment. You might even specialise in a given discipline so clients look to you first when they need someone special.

Of course there are agents out there who work that way at the moment (albeit charging the client rather than the contractor) but they are rare beasts. The increasing use of sites like LinkedIn to bypass the agency by a lot of senior contractors says to me that the agency model as is does not offer them the right support and marketing. This kind of change is desperately needed.

Snag is, the average agency is too risk averse to try it. Utopia may have to wait a while. Heigh ho…

Alan Watts can found at LinkedIn.
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Image: San Miguel Strong Ice Beer by Roro Fernandez

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