How Hiring a Contractor Can Help You Find the Perfect Permanent Candidate

When companies want to make a new hire, the bare minimum timeline for finding and onboarding a great candidate is eight weeks. That’s two full months from the day you start your search – assuming the right person makes contact almost immediately, is available for interviews right away, and doesn’t need to make relocation arrangements or give more than two weeks of notice. As most hiring managers know, things don’t usually play out that way – especially in the Bay Area. It can take two to three weeks just to find a candidate you are interested in interviewing, and another week to arrange an in­person meeting. The interview process alone now averages about 23 days. By the time you’re ready to make an offer, that person might have already accepted another job or have gotten cold feet while waiting for your response. Hiring is a tough business, even when you’re not the one looking for work.
Hiring is a tough business, even when you’re not the one looking for work.
A lot of hiring managers take a positive outlook and assume the best case scenario will happen. There’s certainly nothing wrong with optimism, but we advise a pragmatic approach. Finding the right candidate takes time, and there’s a whole dance of vetting and negotiations that comes before an offer letter is signed. And while all that’s happening? The work is piling up.

The Hiring Conundrum

Oftentimes, the person who previously held the position for which you’re hiring was either let go or quit, which means the role goes unfulfilled for months at a time. But someone has to take on those responsibilities, and that someone usually ends up burning out while juggling his job and the extra assignments. That strain ultimately spills over to the rest of the team which is especially hard on lean or overworked departments. In many companies, the accounting and finance divisions are already stretched thin, so a situation like this causes real duress. When these circumstances persist, managers might hire the wrong person out of desperation or risk high turnover because employees can’t take the stress anymore. No one wants to see these outcomes. Yet companies remain reluctant to take the obvious step of hiring a contractor to handle the work until they find a permanent replacement. Managers have good reasons for this, but as hiring processes become ever more drawn out, they may need to revise their strategies for covering those gaps.

The Dos and Don’ts of Contracting

Hiring managers drag their feet on working with contractors for two main reasons, both having to do with time. They underestimate how long it will take to find the right candidate, and they assume that working with and training a contractor is an inefficient time­-suck. The first step to overcoming these biases is to adjust your timeframe for making a permanent hire. Create a realistic forecast for when you’ll be able to fill the position, and identify the core responsibilities you need covered during that period. Then call a trusted staffing partner and ask her for contracting recommendations.
You’re not hiring for a perfect cultural fit – contractors don’t need to eat lunch with the team every day.
Don’t think of contractors as long-­term team members. You’re not hiring for a perfect cultural fit – contractors don’t need to eat lunch with the team every day. If they hit it off with everyone, great. But you’re looking for an interim person to hold down the fort until you’ve found the candidate you want to “marry.” One interview (even a phone interview) will suffice to determine whether he’s competent and experienced enough to handle what you need done. You’ll often find that your contractors are overqualified for the work you’re asking them to do, but that’s OK. They know that going in and are willing to do it for an agreeable rate. Their qualifications work to your advantage because they require less training and can tackle assignments right away. However, there are times when a contractor isn’t your best bet. If this fast turnaround approach doesn’t suit a particular position, don’t force it. Contracting options are great when you can plug someone in quickly and easily, but if you can’t get by without doing multiple interviews and in-depth training, find another way to distribute the work until you find a permanent hire.

Work Your Network

Staffing agencies specialize in getting someone in ASAP, so take advantage of their expertise. At BVOH, we field these requests regularly. We offer a working interview system, which is an eight hour guarantee. The contractor starts working for you immediately (oftentimes the day after we receive the order), and if you are not satisfied with their work at the end of their first day, we send them home and do not charge you for their work that day. Staffing systems like ours vet and interview contractors and consultants all the time, so we have databases full of references. We can literally plug and play on request.
You’re essentially looking for a Band-Aid to give your team some breathing room until you’ve found the right applicant.
You’ll get the best results if you give the recruiters a list of the core skills you need in a contractor. Provide the requirements but pay special attention to the “must-­haves.” You should expect to settle for a 60­70 percent match. Again, this is OK. You’re essentially looking for a Band­-Aid to give your team some breathing room until you’ve found the right applicant. Hiring new people is stressful because you want to make the right decision. Working with a contractor enables you to do that by making sure the work gets done while you focus on vetting and selecting the best permanent candidates. Contractors are accustomed to working on short-term assignments, so let them help you while you focus on building a solid team – no matter how long that takes.

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