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Dealing with IT contractor recruitment agencies

Most IT contractors tend to work via recruitment agencies, with a fair number securing work directly with clients.

Despite the much discussed ‘us vs. them’ relationship between the parties, there are the good, reputable agencies and the not-so good. The same applies to IT contractors, of course!

Although it is hard to generalise, given the sheer number of agencies out there, here are some ideas for getting the most out of your relationship with agencies:

Applying for IT Contracts

If you want to improve your chances of an agency putting you forward for a given role, ensure that you have taken the time to produce a concise and user-friendly CV. Take the time to tailor the text to suit a particular role.

Make Contact

Although the Internet age has proved to be a blessing for contractors, in terms of the ease of communication, it is always worth making a call to the agency after submitting your CV. This will show that you are serious about the role, and give you a chance to build up a rapport.

Be Firm

Before you set out to become an IT contractor, you will have expectations of your market rate, where you want to work, and what type of role you want to be considered for.

You may well receive calls for roles which don’t fit your requirements, so be firm and hold out for the right roles. This is easier to do when times are good, but you may also need to compromise a bit when the market dips (as in 2009).

Commissions

We’re all in it for the money – both IT contractors and agents. Agents will typically expect to be paid upwards of 15% of your contract rate in return for negotiating the role for you.

In an ideal world, you could easily work direct for clients, but in reality many clients prefer to outsource their IT contractor recruitment to agencies, so agents will receive commissions for linking you up with a client.

Always ask what commission the agent is charging, and if you feel it is too high, suggest that your rate should rise accordingly.

For this reason, if an agent initially asks you what rate you’d expect to be paid for a given role, be non-committal and play the game to your advantage.

Time-Wasters

You will, not doubt, have heard stories of agents who cold call contractors for their own benefit. For example, you may get a call while at a client site and an agent from another firm may say: “who’s your project manager again??” – this simply means that the agent is looking to get in with the client and most likely has never known the name of your project manager.

Although this may be annoying on occasion, you can always politely decline to offer the information. Bear in mind that the cold-calling agent may have a role for you some time in the future, so don’t burn your bridges!

Last updated: 4th November 2014